By: Cristina Trette, MA, LMFT
How many times have you heard the story about someone embarking on a total life change upon the heels of illness, injury, divorce, or death? The great inspirer, Brendon Burchard, talks publicly about how a tragic car accident served as a catalyst for him to start living a life that matters. The motivational speaker, Klyn Elsbury, goes big towards dreams every single day, while simultaneously fighting Cystic Fibrosis a chronic, progressive, and frequently fatal illness.
I don't mean this flippantly. Klyn walks her talk. She eats, breathes, and sleeps authentic connection, combined with a relentless go for it attitude, which is magnetic. Several years ago I met up with Klyn for dinner. While listening to her story, I basked in her glow of inspiration. I left feeling excited and ready to do life and love differently.
At the same time, I wondered, why, is it so hard for so many of us to live fully while we are alive? And do we need to experience tragedy in order to wake up? Or can we tap into our passion and purpose at any time, moving us from mundane to magnificent?
I spend my free time learning as much as I can on all topics related to relationships, parenting, mental health and wellbeing in an effort to serve my clients better. I watched a video the other day as I was researching substance use disorders. In this video, a gentleman spoke about how addiction broke up his marriage. For years his wife had begged him to quit drinking. Eventually, she left him and brought the kids with her.
During the divorce process his world collapsed. He almost drank himself to death. He lost his job and took on huge amounts of credit card debt.
The divorced finalized and his wife got 100 percent custody. This was what woke him up. It took losing everything for him to do the massively hard work and make the changes he had to make.
Eventually, he was catapulted into rehab, therapy, and AA meetings. Today he is enjoying great health. He has become wildly successful in career and credits sobriety to all of his success.
But his former wife remarried and he only sees his children on Sundays. He misses his family like crazy. Not a day goes by where he does not wonder what would have happened if he had quit drinking ten years ago.
Why did it take losing all that he loved in order for him to wake up?
Researchers in the field of Positive Psychology have coined the term Post-traumatic Growth which refers to the phenomena of how living through adversity can ignite people to positively transform their life, sometimes in radical ways. I find it to be brilliant that we can harness all of our power to recreate our vibrancy after life has dropped us down hard. This is particularly true when trauma and devastation impact those who have no control over the situation such as with illness, death, abuse, natural disasters, and other tragedies.
But many of us do not experience terminal illness, devastating storms, war, or famine in the literal sense.
Instead our tragic-ness is self imposed. How many of us have lives, relationships, careers, and families - that in reality are pretty darn good - but we don't see it or we are not grateful for it?
How many of us numb ourselves through indulgence in affairs, sweets, alcohol, drugs, porn, or work?
How many of us yell at or put down our spouses and children and the people we love the most?
And how many more of us trudge through life, in a mild state of miserable, not depressed but not happy either. Yes, perhaps we have moments of joy but for the most part, we live pay check to pay check, literally and figuratively, just to get by.
Does tragedy have to happen in order for us to climb out of the ditch? Do we need to lose our family or experience terminal illness in order to take the reins on our lives - and make it worth living - and then some?
Do we have to get knocked around hard before we can wake up?
While I do not have the answer to this question in any firm sense. My simple answer to this question, is "no".
Big tragedy can ignite transformation. Tiny tragedy can too. All the moments that we struggle in our relationships, have setbacks in our career, or find ourselves in a slump can become invitations to turn inward, connect with and find our reasons for living a life fully alive.
Perhaps its time we stop waiting for a crisis to occur to begin living. Starting right now all of us can take the reigns, do the work, and see what happens next.
Hello! I am Cristina Trette. I am a Couples Therapist, Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, and Certified in Perinatal Mental Health. I write on all things related to relationships, parenthood, and connection.