We often hear that pain, suffering, and difficult life circumstances are blessings in disguise. Many say that there is purpose in everything that happens in our lives. Others believe that we need to learn from our mistakes.
I do believe these things to be true. I’ve seen the most difficult experiences in my life (such as being diagnosed with Fibromyalgia and moving away from my archaeological career) leading to better more content filled experiences (like whole health). I’ve also come to see that many of the things I saw as flaws (such as my introverted tendencies) have also been my greatest strengths (directing my interest in writing and strengthening my analytical nature).
However, I think that difficult life circumstances have another purpose that we don’t often readily see. Compassion. Both within ourselves and towards others.
As human beings, we are all egocentric, we see and interpret the world through our own experiences. This is why when we look at others we tend to label them and react to them according to our own mirrors (our own inner feelings and unresolved experiences). This is also why we are often attracted to and relate better to people who have similar experiences or interests.
When something “bad” happens, it can take some time to work through the experience, to understand what actions (or inactions) need to be taken, and how this new piece of information fits into our life. Truthfully, that’s all a “bad” experience really is, one that takes a little extra time to process and integrate. All too often, we assume that this situation says something about who we are and feel it labels us as a certain type of person.
This label then becomes the story of who we are. Not a part of the story but the forefront or whole of the story. So instead of seeing ourselves as an intelligent, creative, loving individual with hopes and dreams who happen to have had a certain set of experiences, we see ourselves as flawed and broken.
Short term, we may need to work through the situation so that we can find the lesson or the opportunity. Knowing that we need that time and gifting that to ourselves is compassionate. Not only is it healthy self-care but it also keeps things in perspective. We recognize that problems (big or small) come and go but ultimately we have the ability to survive come what may.
Unfortunately, sometimes we begin to believe that this experience is the only story we have in us. At some point that label becomes confining. Eventually, we begin to believe that we can’t survive through difficult times and we seek to make that erroneous belief a reality.
Still, the interesting thing is that because human beings are egocentric by nature, when we experience difficult experiences, we often are attracted to others in the same situation. While this can lead to a mass pity party, it can also be useful to see how others worked through the integration process. Sometimes, just knowing that someone else survived a similar experience can make all the difference.
Moreover, in seeing that “bad” experiences are not the whole of our own story, we recognize that this could be true in others as well. Suddenly, instead of instantly labeling or stereotyping, we see that others are working through their own difficult experiences. From our own experiences, we know that this is a process that may take time and may not always look pretty. In such instances, the best thing we can do is to resist labelling them, be supportive, and give the person the time they need to work through their own “bad” experiences.