Finding meaning in your life is paramount for happiness and health. There are those who believe this is a waste of time – thinking about what your personal experiences mean to you (i.e. the development of wisdom, or your own philosophy of life) – however, it is probably the most important thing you can do to help yourself surmount life’s challenges.
Personally (and now professionally), I find that searching for meaning involves gleaning a lesson, or a purpose in the most significant events in my life. (If I attempted to philosphize about every single experience, I would go mad!) Sometimes the lesson is the purpose and vice versa. Sometimes a lesson is a lesson is a lesson. To illustrate this I will describe a recent scenario in my own life where there was a major lesson to master.
Stay out of it.
Since childhood, I have thrown myself under the proverbial bus for most people who needed rescuing. This pattern of behavior began when I tried to prevent other kids from being sexually abused as I was by the deviant adults that were sometimes our caregivers. It became so ingrained in me that it continued well into my adulthood. It was usually loved ones that I sacrificed myself for as was the case recently with my mother after she agreed to help some people who then took advantage of her good nature (this is also one of her issues which I believe has now been laid to rest).
I have always been there for my family of origin and I believe that this would have been true for me regardless of the effects of the abuse that I endured in my youth. Ever since the death of my father in 2009, I have watched my mother struggle with her grief – she even came close to a nervous breakdown when we had to take dad off of life support. I knew that her decision to help these people of late would test her issues with setting appropriate boundaries (i.e. just say ‘No’), as it has tested mine and I was worried about it because of the state of her mental and physical health over the last few years.
When I meditated on this in order to glean the lesson, I received the word ‘detachment.’ Even though I understand this to be a psychological state that is meant to bring peace by ignoring other peoples’ ‘stuff’, for me this time, it was so much more. At this point in my evolution, it was all about physically leaving the space where all of the drama was taking place and letting my mother (who created the situation) deal with it as she saw fit. As I removed myself from the turmoil every time, I felt more empowered and relieved. I then realized the connection between my childhood experiences and the current situation – I could not get up and leave back then but now it is very doable. I do not have to sacrifice myself to help those I care about – by staying out of it, they find their own way and I set myself free.
This is a HUGE lesson for me.
Finding meaning in difficult life experiences helps you deal with them from a place of power so that you may then move on as a wiser and stronger human being.
“There is meaning to our pain if we rise above it.” ~ Paulo Coehlo