Not everything that’s broken needs to be discarded. Sometimes being broken can increase an object’s worth.
Take the example of the ancient Chinese art of embellishing the cracks in a valuable possession with expensive, exquisite and eye-catching gold leaf.
This sends the message that this object’s beautiful. And we dishonour it by choosing to throw it away, or by pretending that it’s perfect, and has never suffered damage.
There is no cover up or denial in this choice to mend the cherished item with the costly gold leaf. The decision says: “This item is so elegant and precious. It deserves to be repaired. Can you see how much it’s worth?”
The gold leaf gives it prominence. It catches your eye. In the end, we find the damage has increased the object’s value. It has a unique beauty, and it stands out from the crowd.
And here’s the thing ….
None of us will make it through this life unscarred. The damage we experience may be serious and extensive. But if our wounds are touched with kindness, and a healing balm’s poured in, then eventually the scars can be lovingly transformed into something that is rare, and is truly beautiful.
“She picked up the broken pieces of her life, and created something beautiful.”
Unfortunately, uncertainty is part of life. There are so many things we can’t control. So what can do you to try to cope with the stress? Here are a few tips to help you with this.
1. Be understanding of your feelings. Being anxious and afraid is natural when you are dealing with something you have little or no control over. This is especially true if this is something that really matters to you, or where negative outcomes could have serious consequences for you, or someone else. Why wouldn’t you worry under those circumstances? Anyone would! Your reaction is normal – even healthy.
2. Be kind and gentle with yourself. Beating yourself up for feeling anxious and worried, or being intolerant of the way you feel, is not going to help the situation a all. This is a time to be there for yourself. Sometimes it can help if we say things like “It’s really, really hard when you just have to be patient and wait. In fact, it can feel unbearable at times.”
3. Try not to dwell on things you can’t control. When something really concerns you, it is natural for your thoughts to keep drifting off in that direction. We keep thinking about the “what ifs”. We keep turning over worst-case scenarios in our minds. In some ways this can be good – as there are times when this process actually does alert us to things we need to do, or could do, in order to avert a possible disaster. However, more commonly we find our thinking goes round and round in circles, and escalates our feelings of anxiety.
4. Actively take control of the things you can control. This can help combat your feelings of powerlessness and hopelessness. Perhaps you can plan ahead, and make sure you are top of your other responsibilities. Perhaps you can do some research. Perhaps you can make contingency plans.
5. Seek out support. This can mean searching out people who can give informed and meaningful advice; or it can mean talking to a friend or family member who is always there for you. “A burden shared can be a burden halved.” Don’t withdraw and isolate yourself.
5. Limit your exposure to other forms of negative information – such as the news. For now, you are bearing as much as you can bear. You don’t have the reserves to deal with other things as well. Yes, you may need to know what is happening in the world. But be disciplined in how frequently you check the news, your email, or social media accounts. It’s especially important to avoid these things at more vulnerable times – like just before you go to bed.
6. Invest is self-care. This is something you’ll have heard many times before. However, when you’re really under stress, this is an absolute must. Meaningful self-care can take the form of meditation, yoga, spending time with your pets, going outside, getting exercise, playing with your kids, reading, and so on. Do whatever works for you!
Whether it’s a friend, or your partner or spouse, it’s horrible to feel that they don’t value you. It can really undermine your self-esteem.
But so often we push down all the signs that are there – because it’s very painful to be treated in this way. We don’t want to face the truth that they’re treating us like this when we care about them, and always treat them with respect.
So here are some signs we should pay attention to …
1. They aren’t interested in what you have to say. Perhaps they appear sweet when you are around, but they don’t really care about your opinions. But what they think, and the views of certain others, always seems to matter, and are taken seriously. They also show a glaring lack of empathy when you want to share something that’s important to you.
2. They rarely follow through on what they say they’ll do. They break commitments, and the change the plans you’ve made, and often they will do this at short notice. It is clear you’re being treated as a low priority. They don’t keep their word, and are not there for you.
3.They don’t invest the same amount of effort as you. When they need something from you, they are quick to get in touch – but when you need help, they usually don’treciprocate. It is you who has to fit into their schedule and their plans. It feels as if this other person always calls the shot.
4. Their words and their actions are out of synch. They tell you that you’re great, “such a very precious friend” – yet they can’t find the time to hang out with you. Or they tell you that they love you, then they treat you like you’re trash, or they chat up other people behind your back.
5. They are takers – never givers. You are the one who has to pander to their needs, and you end up feeling drained as you get nothing in return. Honestly … is this a relationship, or are you being used?
6. You feel as if they’re in a competition with you. They aren’t interested when life goes well for you. In fact, you sense they’re threatened, and they’d rather things went wrong. So, you have to play successes down – because it makes things tense or sour. Yet it’s a very different story when life work out for them!
7. They lie to you (even if it’s just small lies). You are genuine and real in your relationship with them – but they withhold information and important facts from you. Perhaps they tell you they had a coffee with a colleague after work … but fail to mention it’s a woman … and this isn’t the first time. Or they tell elaborate lies, and you start to feel suspicious. Or you feel you’re being kept out of what’s happening in their life.
Even though it can be painful to notice what’s going on, we need to face the facts, and to tell ourselves the truth. And perhaps this is the time to start honouring yourself, and to start requiring more from the people in your life.
Don’t put up with this mistreatment, and this lack of respect.
I came across a story in a book recently where the author was asked for some wisdom to live by. As an obituary writer, she has learned quite a lot about really matters when you look back on a life.
All of us have made some bad mistakes along the way. And some of those mistakes have been really serious. The ripples of our choices can extend so very far.
But one thing she has noticed – despite the hand we’re dealt, and despite the pain and heartaches we all face in different ways – is it’s nearly always possible to find the good. There is always something positive among the negatives
Of course … we may need to dig deep, and it may take quite a while, to get a fresh perspective on traumatic life events.
It takes a lot of work to find the diamonds in the coal.
But, still, it can be possible to find some beauty there.
Something to Think About
If you were on your death bed, and were asked to give advice – or create a pithy haiku – as you left this world behind, I wonder what your final words would be?
The author in the book decided on a single phrase. The wisdom she’d pass on can be summed in these words … Simply stated it is: “Find the good.”
In all the pain and suffering, and the challenges we face, perhaps this is enough. Perhaps this helps us to live well.
So what do you think your haiku might be? I’d love to hear from you!
I recently came across a really helpful mantra for managing intense, overwhelming emotions. In its simplest form, the mantra is:
1. Notice what you’re feeling when emotions are stirred. Don’t ignore what is happening inside your head and body. Don’t deny, or suppress, or trivialize your feelings. They are wanting your attention. They deserve to be acknowledged. They deserve to be seen. To be taken seriously.
You can do this by giving the emotion a name: “This is sorrow. This is sadness. This is anger. This is shame.”
2. Next, accept it’s your emotion. It’s your own personal reaction. The feeling is still yours, even if it has been triggered by a person, or a place, or an object, or a memory.
Also, remember there are no good or bad emotions. Our emotions simple are. There is nothing wrong with them.
You give them dignity, by accepting your emotions.
3. Check where you experience the emotions in your body. In your stomach? In your head? In your chest? In your feet? Also, keep checking in to see how this alters over time. Notice how the feelings change as they pass through your body.
Perhaps the feeling first presents as an adrenalin rush and then, immediately, you’re conscious of a racing heart. Perhaps it pulsates through your body … then it slowly dissipates … then you notice that your fingers and your toes are tingling.
There’s a pattern you can trace. What’s the sequence that’s repeated?
4. Stay with the emotions, and then ask yourself: Is there anything else you feel like doing – that could help? Do you feel you want to scream? Do you feel you want to cry? Can you, maybe, find a safe way of expressing what you’re feeling – so it doesn’t get repressed, or get trapped inside your body?
Working through this mantra is responding, not reacting. It can help you to recover, and prevent you getting sick.
“There is no one-size-fits-all template for healing; but there are steps that can be earned and practiced. Steps that each individual can weave together in his or her own way. Steps in the dance of freedom.” – Edith Eva Eger
1. Try to keep in mind that feelings of panic are simply exaggerated bodily responses. They are an over-reaction to perceived feelings of threat. Your brain is trying to keep you safe.
2. The sensations themselves are neither harmful nor dangerous. Nothing worse is going to happen to you. In time the feelings will start to dissipate.
3. Do your best to stop adding to the feelings of panic by imagining all kinds of scary “what if” scenarios. Instead, try to reign in thoughts of where the panic might lead, and how much worse the situation could become.
4. Consciously work on grounding yourself in the present. Like an outside observer, do your best to notice what is happening in you, and around you. Try to be as detached and curious as possible. Describe what you are observing in simple, concrete terms (both inside your body, and in the environment).
5. Be patient. Wait it out. Allow the feelings to gradually weaken, and to slowly dissipate.
6. Notice how taking control of your thinking affects your emotions and physiology. Notice that doing this has the knock-on effect of reducing the intense and overwhelming scary feelings. It changes your emotions and your physiology, in a positive way.
7. Deliberately move your thinking from what you are feeling, to thinking about what you will do afterwards – once the feelings of panic have subsided. What is the first thing you will do? What will you do next? What will you do after that?
8. As you notice your feelings coming under control, begin to think about all the progress you have. Think about they way you are now able to take control of a panic attack. Think about the progress you have made in dealing with a trauma or a stressful situation. As you noticed how you’ve changed, you will feel a sense of pride, and an increasing sense of bravery, courage and strength. Stay with those feelings for a while. Then, when you are ready, move on with your day.