BY ADELE CASANOVA
Life is full of ups and downs; that is for sure. And the only real constant is change. Changes will inevitably occur in our lives, and how we react to them is key to our personal success and happiness. Positive changes are easy to embrace. It is the difficult, unexpected changes from which it is harder to recover. Events like job loss, illness, loss of a loved one – these are hurtful, tragic changes that can precipitate negative results. The key to successfully moving on from negative events is to find the positive outcomes that are possible and embrace them fully. Something good always comes out of something bad. Here are some basic steps to finding the “silver lining.”
Accept the Change
When a negative change takes place in our lives, we don’t like it, didn’t ask for it and most probably couldn’t stop it. The sense of lack of control to stop negative events from happening can be overwhelming and prevent us from accepting changes we cannot control. The sooner we accept that a negative event has created a new reality for us to live in, the sooner we can move toward finding the positive outcomes that may be related to the change.
Own Your Emotions
A negative change in our lives will generate emotions we don’t relish experiencing, such as anger, grief, sadness, or fear. All of our emotional experiences are valuable. They are uniquely ours, essential parts of our emotional make up, who we are. Allowing ourselves to experience “negative” emotions, owning them as ours, feeling them fully without self-judgment clears the way to move forward. All of our emotions are valuable markers in the progression of our lives, and each emotion, positive or negative, can be evaluated in opposition to one another, giving us reference points in our experiences of them. This leads to gratitude for the positive emotions and to a natural motivation to react in a way that leads us to the “silver lining.”
English poet Alexander Pope’s line of poetry, “Hope springs eternal in the human breast,” is a beautiful way of saying that we are always hopeful regardless of circumstances. Czechoslovakian statesman, Vaclav Havel, calls hope “an orientation of the spirit, an orientation of the heart.” Even in our darkest moments of despair and grief, we can embrace hope. When we have experienced a negative event that has left us with a changed reality, and after we have accepted the change and fully felt our emotions without self-judgment, then we can ask ourselves, “How can I orient my new reality for a positive outcome.” For example, after a loss of employment, what better job, or more independent means of self-employment might I achieve that I would not otherwise accomplish but not for the loss of employment?” In the example of a loss of a loved one, envision how the relationships of those left behind can be strengthened and enriched going forward, having bonded emotionally in a new and powerful way by grieving together.
Engage Your Power
Each person is endowed with personal power to direct his or her life in a chosen direction. Knowledge of that personal power is key to embracing the positive outcomes from a tragedy. Be proactive in embracing the positive outcomes that you envision. Go back to school at night to qualify yourself for a better job. Or finally, take that risk of opening the business of your dreams. Reach out to family members in new compassionate ways after you have lost a loved one together. Start building those strengthened relationships you might not have valued in the past.
Your silver lining is always there. Accepting that which you cannot control, loving yourself, and your emotional process through difficult times and embracing hope in a proactive way will lead you there.