At times like these, sometimes it helps to take a step back and react in the exact opposite way that you’re expected to react.
When something bad happens, it’s normal to get upset. But what if you refuse to get upset? What if you completely and fully accept what’s happening as your reality? (And then you can take steps to improve your situation. But only after you’ve accepted it).
One mantra I like to go back to when things go wrong is this:
“This happened for a reason.”
At first it feels a little silly, like you’re rejecting the obvious facts that are right in front of you. Maybe you’re thinking that it’s completely obvious that the world really is out to get you and no one else is possibly having as bad a week as you are.
But you must fight against these feelings. Honor them and don’t ignore them, of course, but resist the temptation to paint yourself as a victim of circumstances.
When you say something like, “This happened for a reason” or even, “That’s exactly what I wanted to happen,” then you’re immediately taking away the idea that you’re helpless and instead portraying yourself as fully in charge of your life and its outcomes.
Let’s use a few examples. Maybe you’re trying to catch the bus and you see it approaching so you run after it and it just leaves without you. It’s tempting to think, “Wow this week is horrible and I can’t believe everything is going wrong in my life. Everything sucks. That bus driver is out to get me.” But resist the temptation!
If I miss a bus, I try to think, “Nope. That wasn’t my bus.” And it sounds simple and maybe a little silly but radically accepting your reality (a principle from dialectical behavioral therapy) can really help you deal with whatever circumstances you find yourself in. Maybe there’s a really good reason you missed that bus that you can’t possibly understand right now. Maybe because you missed that bus, you’re about to stumble into the future love of your life at the bus stop or prevent you from getting into an accident. You never know.
Maybe you get fired from your job when money is already really tight. Instead of jumping to conclusions about how your boss is horrible and out to get you, just think, “This happened for a reason.” It sounds ridiculous, but it forces your mind to think of ways that what happened maybe did happen for a reason. The sooner you can accept your current reality, the sooner you can either move on or do something to improve your situation. (Note: this doesn’t really apply to extreme situations like abuse. That is never ok.)
If you’re spiritual or religious at all, then these words probably already have some meaning to you. So when something goes wrong in your life and your best-laid plans and expectations are all falling apart at the seams, just try to remember that everything is happening for a reason.
Here’s a quote from Shauna Niequist:
“And that’s the core of prayer: admitting that just maybe, there’s something going on that we can’t see.”
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