Moving From Pain to Purpose

“Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.” ~Viktor Frankl

At some point in life, we will all be forced to overcome something that tests us to the core. Maybe you endured heartbreak, illness, bullying, betrayal and/or grief? Healing from something that was traumatic takes time and a good personal and professional support system. Nevertheless, many of us will not enter counseling and/or ask for the support we need until symptoms of anxiety and depression become unmanageable. When we are stuck in the middle of our pain, it’s easy to believe there is no way out. However, I do believe that regardless of how challenging our circumstances are or how intense our pain is, there is always a choice and a chance to move forward.

Consider some of the harder obstacles that you have worked through. What helped you move forward? University of Massachusetts-Amherst psychologist Ervin Staub, defined the term “altruism born of suffering.” Per Staub, altruism born suffering is defined as, “people who go through hard times and come out of the experience with a distinct concern for others' welfare.” Not everyone believes that purpose can be created in pain. Nevertheless, I do believe that our healing journey often begins through forming a relationship with our pain. Through doing so, slowly (often very slowly), we can begin to build a new life for ourselves. Quite often we can even utilize the wisdom from our hardships and struggles to help others.

Viktor E. Frankl was a psychiatrist and a Holocaust survivor. Accordingly, he wrote what I believe to be one of the most important books of the 20th century, Man’s Search for Meaning. Frankl developed a form of psychotherapy called logotherapy, which is a therapeutic modality that helps people who have endured extreme hardship and suffering search for and find meaning and purpose in their lives. Viktor Frankl is one of the best examples out there of someone who found purpose in his pain. Likewise, he dedicated his life to helping others find meaning in their pain as well.

Making a commitment to move forward from pain does NOT excuse, minimize or erase the past. When tragedy and atrocities occurs, it isn’t healthy to excuse it or pretend it wasn’t a big deal. But in our darkest moments, we also benefit from believing that beauty exists on the other side of the breakdown. For example, as many as 90% of people who experience a traumatic event also experienced at least one form of personal growth in the following months and years. If you are healing from pain, I send you lots of supportive and healing thoughts. Believe in brighter days and also take everything at your own pace. If you are currently struggling, please find my 3 tips below on how to find purpose in your pain.

Finding Purpose In Your Pain:

Tip #1: Invest in Support

Quite often we minimize, rush or are confused about our own emotional process. Recognize that while feelings aren’t facts, they are very real and often painful to hold. When going through a traumatic event, the worst thing you can do is isolate yourself. We can’t move forward until we grieve and make peace with the past. Invest in professional support. Interview several therapists and look into professionals who have a specialty in trauma. In order to find purpose in our pain, it is important to talk it out, process the emotional implications of the past and learn new psychoeducational coping skills.

Tip #2: Contribute to Others

The best parts of ourselves often shine when we are contributing to others. Giving back, volunteering and generosity has been scientifically shown to have beneficial effects on our emotional and physical health. Many have found it very therapeutic to contribute to others who are going through similar losses, sufferings or are in pain. Is there a way you can take what you have been through and give back to others going through similar experiences?

Tip #3: Be Solution Oriented

When we are feeling overwhelmed by heavy emotions, it’s easy to fall into a pattern of obsessing over all of the negative things in life. We need to talk it out and venting can often feel therapeutic. Nevertheless, sometimes we all benefit from hitting the pause button on our frustrations. When we direct our energy into problem solving, we can shift our attention away from our pain, giving ourselves greater access to greater freedom and coping skills Adapting a solution oriented approach to problem solving can move us away from a challenging past and gives us a different perspective to find purpose in our pain.

Can you relate to this post? If yes, please send me an email and let's set up a complimentary phone call. Sending you peaceful thoughts and wishes for brighter days.

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