Saturday, May 4, 2013

Wisdom to Thrive By

We watched the movie, Life of Pi for Faith and Film night this evening.  Wow.  I still need to process through a great deal of it.  But some of the wisdom that struck me the most this evening had to do with how we frame things.  I've talked about this before, but I am more and more convinced that how we frame things, how we tell our stories, how we choose to interpret or put meaning to things makes all the difference in the world.  I'm reading a book called The Beethoven Factor by Paul Pearsall.  He, too, talks about how our ability to thrive (not just survive or recover from pain and trauma) has to do with how we make meaning out of those events in our lives which are hard to bear.  Can we find meaning in these events?  Can we tell our stories (even to ourselves) in such a way that there is life in them?  Hope in them?  Purpose and reason to them?  Can our hard experiences help move us to places where we see and appreciate the beauty and blessings in our lives more fully?  Can those challenging events, traumas, crises help move us to places where we savor and relish the good, even when things are hard or difficult?  If we can reframe the losses in our lives, give them a different story, a different understanding, we can move through them with grace and peace.

For example, we often hear of people doing this when a loved one dies.  Especially if it is a young person, those people who can reframe the loss away from it being senseless, pointless and just evil can usually deal with it better.  Examples of that reframing include "She's in a better place now" (though, personally I really, really dislike this particular reframing), "The life she lived was full and meaningful and she gave all of us so much while she lived it."  "His life was short but densely lived." or the ones I think are the most helpful, "I'm going to use this tragedy to help other people."  That is what the woman who began Mothers Against Drunk Driving did.  She took her own personal tragedy and brought good out of it - good for a great number of people.

This isn't the pop positive psychology that says we can make things happen with our thoughts.  Instead, it is a real positive psychology that says we are in charge of how we take things in, how we make meaning of events in our lives and then how we take that meaning to make our lives stronger, better or more full.

This is the difference between allowing a wound to fester and become infected, or allowing the scarring to build a stronger skin where the damage to the body was done.  When our bones break, they heal together with an increased strength.  Yes, a sign of the original damage may be found - but the sign is a place of great strength, especially if we get help in setting the bones correctly (though this is often painful!) before the bones heal.  The same is true for psychological injuries.  Do we allow them to damage us in such a way that we become the "walking wounded", or do we take the broken places, work to set them right in any way we can, and then build strength from them?  It doesn't mean there aren't scars - there are.  But those scars can be where the deeper strength lies.  And that strength then can help us to build lives that are more full, more whole, more loving and more grace-filled.