I don’t know anyone who wants distress in their lives. It makes us feel helpless. We look for someone or something to blame, but it doesn’t relieve the distress.
Yet if we look hard, we’ll find a message in our distress. Knowing that message doesn’t necessarily relieve the distress but it gives us valuable information that we can use to take the next good step.
For many reasons, some people choose to remain in distress. As a priest I counseled those who thought their distress and suffering brought them closer to God. They often carried with them a life-time of shame and self-blame. They identified themselves as victim-sufferers due to trauma or dysfunctional family systems.
Their distress enabled them to hold onto their story of victimhood. It was a way of crying out for sympathy or for someone to rescue them.
What if distress were like a friend with a message? What might your distress be trying to tell you?Have you asked for it to be revealed?
In my own life, once I listen to the message distress brings, I find that I move from emotional reaction to intellectual response. I’m able to dispel the negativity of the distress and calmly move on.
Ultimately we are responsible for much of our own distress. We go around in circles mentally, trying to get rid of it, instead of learning from it. It remains as long as we don’t ask for the message its carrying.
To start, I suggest these six steps:
1. Admit your anger, hurt, or dislike for the person(s) responsible for your distress, including yourself.
2. Forgive and detach; let go of judgment and your inner critic.
3. Be grateful that your distress can be temporary, if you so choose.
4. Take better care of yourself; you are not the supreme care-giver of others.
5. Let yourself off the hook; rewrite your story to include your triumph over distress.
6. Share your life with others and ask how you can relieve some of their distress.
All distress is highly subjective, and so are the messages distress carries. Some distress results from choices we consciously make, like cutting sugar from our diets, social distancing, and wearing masks the pandemic. Yet even in such relatively trivial events, distress wants to tell you something. What is it?
Curious about your distress? Let’s discuss it. firstname.lastname@example.org or text me at 813-449-3904 My book can help: Life Interrupted: Taking Charge After Everything Has Changed