The cold, gray winter is quickly approaching and this seasonal change tends to correspond with periodic or persistent low mood for many. Problems and worries can really feel heavier. It might be hard to believe, but this experience can have value. It can become a time of wrestling with our humanity, connecting to what’s meaningful in our lives, and increasing our awareness and sensitivity to the reality of struggle for others.
As you move through adulthood, you might begin to feel like life is rarely free of problems, and this can be disillusioning. Most of us are taught that if we work hard and do all the right things, life will work out well for us, and we won’t suffer the problems that others face. So when you continue to have struggle after struggle, you might start to feel like something is wrong with you, that you really screwed up or made the wrong decision somewhere along the line, that maybe you should've listened to (fill in the blank), or maybe the world or God just has it in for you.
The good news is that it really is not just you. Life is hard--for most of us. We might have brief reprieves from carrying around a problem that has to be tackled, but some problems will stick around or come back, and while we may solve others, we’re likely to find a new one lurking not too far away.
But if you just keep focusing on problem after problem, thinking life will be okay once you've crossed this final hurdle, you may soon find yourself exhausted and lose hope for a good future. What can be more helpful is to step back for a second and work on coming to a place of acceptance--that this is part of being human--and focus on growing your ability to cope with the problem of facing problems. The challenge is less about the individual issues and more about learning to come to terms with being a human who must deal with problems, some quite painful, throughout life.
I know it can be very difficult when facing your particular challenges, to look around you and perceive that others seem to have it so much easier, to be more successful, or to have the resources to handle their problems easier. Often this is just our perception. A friend once said to me, "People’s outsides often look better than their insides." This is so true. But it’s also true that, while no life will be free of painful problems, some lives face greater and/or more frequent challenges than others. And this can certainly add feelings of grief to our own personal experience and questions about our lot in life.
There are ways of finding more peace and increasing your coping skills. Below is a list of some tools people use to begin this journey:
Faith and Spirituality
Actively seeking community and authentic relationships
Group Therapy--a great way to work on problems, connect with others, and better understand your own relationship dynamics (I'll be posting new groups for 2016 soon).
Reading others’ stories: Memoirs, biographies
Changing your thoughts about what you’re going through.
Including meaningful activities, when possible, even while coping with the problems. Actively practice making sure your life goes on.
A few books some of my clients are raving about that have been helpful:
Feeling Good by David Burns
Radical Acceptance: Embracing Your Life with the Heart of the Buddha by Tara Brach
The Problem of Pain by C.S. Lewis
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Individual and couples therapy are available at my office in Midtown, Manhattan. Call or send an email to set up a free phone consultation.
Melissa King, LMHC : Psychotherapist
Relationship and Self-Esteem Counseling
141 E. 35th St., New York, NY 10016
If you are looking for a safe space to explore your concerns and heal but are unsure how to choose a therapist, email or call me for a free 15-minute phone consultation. Together we can determine whether we're a good fit and if not, I will help you find someone who is. firstname.lastname@example.org