Trauma, Bad Days and Failures Can Be Good For you.
How I found the silver lining in almost anything!
I’ve recently had a down pour of bad days lately. The amount of stress and negativity I have dealt with lately has me reopening old wounds, and using negative coping techniques. This lead me to start dwelling on the future. I can self-sabotage and dig deeper than I need to, which can make things even worse. Lately I have been over thinking, over worrying and over analyzing almost everything in my life. Some of my concerns have turned out to be valid. I always trust my instincts if I think something is wrong. Trust me, I will get to the bottom of it. The bad part is that when I find something wrong, I will not let it go. I had stopped looking for the silver lining.
This had me thinking about how I have handled things in my past, how I am currently handling things, and how I would like to handle things in the future (as my current mechanism are clearly not working). I am an avid listener of many podcasts, audio-books and YouTube videos (lately I’ve been binging on Tony Robbins). I recently heard a piece of audio that said something to the effect of, “unless you have these bad days, you cannot appreciate what the good days truly are.” This concept resonated with me deeply. I realized that as I have grown, I have learned to seek out the positive in most negative situations throughout my life, but lately I was purposefully not seeing the silver lining. Essentially I was keeping myself in a very negative state, thus perpetuating more issues.
When thinking about why I haven’t been looking for the good in the bad, I discovered that, for me, sometimes it is hard to always be positive and be the “bigger” person in certain situations. I realized that having a bad day and negative emotions lets me release some toxic feelings that I had been harboring and it feels good to let that go…finally! Now, with that being said, I still had been ruminating on a lot of negatives. Instead of seeking solutions, I was continually trying to release my toxic energy to make myself feel better.
This behavior has been hindering me from creating solutions, seeing the big picture and truly feeling better. I decided to listen to a few more audio-books with the hope that I could ease my mind and get back to my “normal” self.
Here are a few of the best things that I consciously had to remind myself of and put into action:
You Can Only Control Yourself
Sometimes I can really get down on myself when things are not going right. I tend to assume responsibility for everything and everyone. I say a lot of “why me’s” to myself and I personally assume that I am to blame for others behaviors. Now logically I know this is not true, but in emotional upheaval it seems rational in the moment. When I remind myself that I can control only myself, I begin to heal again. I did not do such and such action, I was not malicious, I am not to blame. Challenging your own perspective can be hard, but can also work wonders. Perspective is everything and you can control/change it! When I remember that I cannot change another person, it allows me to focus more on myself. I have the power to control what I respond to, and how react to it.
Consider these things when shifting your focus back to yourself or when you are feeling out of control or overwhelmed:
- What were or are your expectations
- Could it have been prevented
- Are you upholding or crossing a boundary
- What could you have done or do differently
- What steps can you take to make things change or improve
A practical way to start regaining control over yourself is by re-examining or reducing your expectations of the situation. For example, let’s say your spouse needs 1 hour to decompress after work, but you have been expecting them to jump right in as soon as they get home. Is that beneficial to anyone or is it a recipe for disaster all around? You can take control of yourself by changing your perspective about the issue, and compromising. Choose your battles wisely and think about what outcome you are trying to ultimately gain.
Additionally, start to identify your own boundaries. By communicating your boundaries clearly and proactively, you can prevent future issues and be able to respond more appropriately when those boundaries are broken. For instance, if your children go out with their friends, they must check-in via phone or text. That could be a hard boundary that must be respected or else a predetermined consequence will happen. Communication is a big factor especially when you are having bad days.
The best thing about having control over yourself, is that you no longer need to take the blame or accept responsibility for everyone else. When you put the focus back on yourself and how you respond and react, you can make changes immediately. You don’t have to wait for others to “hopefully” change.
So, if you don’t like it when your wife goes out with her friends, you need to figure out why it bothers you, and what you can do about it. Stop hoping she will do what you want just because you asked her to. Ideally, your spouse would never do anything that you wouldn’t want them to do in the first place, but let’s be real, they do.
Start to figure out if this behavior is something you don’t like because of something they have done in the past, something someone else has done to you in the past that you have not let go of, if it is negatively impacting your family, your own insecurity, jealousy, etc. Once you identify why it is bothersome to you…you can work on fixing it. If it is something that has been a negative pattern, you now have to decide whether you can accept that behavior and move on lovingly, or if it a deal breaker…your choice.
Using the scenario above, let’s suppose that the reason you do not like your wife going out with her friends, is because she does not return at what you would consider to be a reasonable time. You might think that there is no way to control your part in the problem. Well consider first voicing your concern when you are not angry. This will help open the lines of communication. Ask for a compromise on a return time that you are both agreeable to. Also, she could possibly a call to check in and see if everything is OK, just in case she needs to return sooner. Those are things you have the power to request. If she refuses or is unwilling to compromise, you now have the control to decide if you need to re-evaluate your own expectations and needs, or whether or not there is a bigger issue to work on.
Another idea that might completely mitigate the issue completely and get your mind off what your wife is doing is by having a night out to yourself at the same time and getting a babysitter to watch the kids for you both to have some fun. Win/win solutions are always an ideal!
Be Grateful For What You Have
When you shift your focus on to what you are thankful for, you break the negative connection. Having negative experiences allows you to be grateful for positive experiences and allows you to appreciate what you have. When something bad happens, you can clearly identify the good things in your life easier because are more in tune to details in your life and are more present.
When you’re right in the middle of turmoil or emotional distress, take a couple of minutes to try and think of things you are thankful for. It could be the home you live in, the fact that you can put food on the table or even knowing that things always get better and the bad day will pass…anything! This will create a sense of calm and empowerment when you need it most. Potentially you will gain strength and resilience that you need to grow. Your life isn’t 100% horrible all of the time. Good things are happening all around, but you don’t notice them. Giving attention to the things you are grateful for, no matter how small, will allow you to heal the negative emotions and persevere.
I recently tried this tip myself. I was smack dab in the middle of a situation that was increasing my anxiety and fear. I thought to myself, if only I could just focus on 3 things I am very grateful to have in my life. I might be able to pull myself out of this. Guess what…it worked! Not only was I focusing on 3 wonderful things, I started thinking about everything I was grateful for in my life. I was even thankful for including what was causing me the most stress! Now it did work, but it was short-lived. I am hopeful that with enough practice, I will use this as one of my better go-to coping mechanisms in the future.
Depending on the issue, you might even be grateful for lessons you gained by having the bad day, the past trauma or failure itself. If you have grown, learned or strengthened yourself in any way, shape or form due to that negative situation, count that as a win! Don’t let the past trauma, bad days or failures keep you in a victim state any longer than they have to. You can choose how much energy the negative experience takes from you. It’s not easy, but it can be done.
Remember there is no light, without the contrast of the dark. In everything there is balance and it is specifically designed to be that way. Embrace the yin and yang of the universe and strive to have more good than bad.
As mentioned before, trauma, bad days and failures can cause growth. Maybe that is why we have suffering and pain in the first place? Who knows! However, if you aim to find the silver lining in each negative experience you will inevitably learn and grow. I work with patients who have had severe trauma during their childhoods. Most of them have continued to have problems in their present lives. Instead of trying to resolve their trauma and fix the issues, they oftentimes turn to drugs and alcohol to cope.
While in the short term, these things might help, in the long term they can destroy lives. If the cycle is not broken, the residual issues can continue to cause harm to their families and children. The cycle will continue in some way, shape or form until it is broken. Finding the silver lining, learning the lessons, and growing is essential to finding inner peace within yourself. Resolving the issues now will ensure that your children will not have to live with the fall out. Everybody responds to trauma, bad days, and failures differently. Most of the time people don’t realize that if they don’t deal with those negative experiences, not only will it impacts them, it also impacts everyone around them.
The best way to end the cycle of victimization, bad coping mechanisms, destructive behaviors and the ongoing issues these things cause is by facing it head on. Depending on your issue, you may need to do some deep diving, seek treatment and delve into your past trauma to try and resolve it. This will allow you to change current behaviors that are negatively impacting your present life. Once you work on your past trauma, and gain new clarity on your current life you can start to move on and make progress…and thrive!
Here are some examples common issues and where the silver lining might be found:
Recent “fight” with your spouse – Maybe arguing and fighting has been a part of your relationship for a while or maybe it is something that has just reared it’s ugly head. Regardless of how long it’s been going on, from this point on you can start improving your communication and looking for the silver lining. It’s possible that one or both partners have things they need to work on individually that could not have been realized otherwise. Get the root of the issues and solve problems. Learning how to “fight fair” will allow you to grow from these experiences even quicker.
Your children continue to act out and misbehave – This is where you can make leaps and bounds in your personal parenting skills. Children almost always are responding directly to how they have been taught and are treated. Take a step back to examine your own role in your child’s behavior. Oftentimes what you think is right (because it worked for you), is not right for that particular child. Additionally, just because one thing works for one child, it does not mean it will work on all your children. This is one of the best books I read about disciplining your children with love. It made such a difference in my own parenting style and allowed me to have a closer relationship with my daughter. I’d say that is the best silver lining I’ve found to this day.
Death of a loved one – This is one of the hardest to find a silver lining in, especially if it is the lost of a child. I honestly don’t think there is a silver lining in that (as the post is titled “almost anything”). If they were older adults, maybe they are now out of the pain they were suffering. In loosing other adults in your life you could gain the courage to make changes in your own life by examining the mistakes they made in theirs. For example, if you best friends sister passed away from a heart attack, maybe it’s time to get that check up you’ve been meaning to get for some time now.
More on failures…
Failure can mean many things to each and every one of us. For most, it means we tried something and did not succeed. If you examine most of the influential people in history who have done anything of great importance, most of them said something to the effect that they could have never gotten to their greatest accomplishment without having many failures. By failing at something you again learn and grown. One of my favorite quotes is from Thomas A. Edison and states, “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” Now Edison didn’t always do things exactly himself (a post for another time), the concept of what he said is still spot on. My favorite current champion in life Gary Vaynerchuk has more to say on this here.
More on trauma…
Per the SAMHSA website, “Research has shown that traumatic experiences are associated with both behavioral health and chronic physical health conditions, especially those traumatic events that occur during childhood. Substance use (e.g., smoking, excessive alcohol use, and taking drugs), mental health conditions (e.g., depression, anxiety, or PTSD), and other risky behaviors (e.g., self-injury and risky sexual encounters) have been linked with traumatic experiences. Because these behavioral health concerns can present challenges in relationships, careers, and other aspects of life, it is important to understand the nature and impact of trauma, and to explore healing.” Be the leader and be the one to break the cycle for you and your children.
So when you have had a bad day, a recent failure or past trauma, think about the following. Has this event caused you to grow or learn? What have you learned? How did you grow? What has been gained? Finding the silver lining in any negative situation is definitely something to be grateful for even if it takes years to get the point where you can see the silver lining and reap the benefits. I am not dismissing trauma in any way, shape or form, but you can find positives in traumatic experience.
I’d love to hear about the negative situations you’ve experienced and what silver lining you found. Please leave a comment below.