Every crisis has a teachable point of view

A line in a song that I heard the other day, refuses to leave me, and makes me think. The song is by the first-ever American Idol, Kelly Clarkson, from her album “Stronger” (2011). The lyrics of Clarkson’s song, which explores themes of empowerment and recovery following a heartbreak, have this famous line – “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger” (follow the link below for the actual song). The original quotation is by German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche (1844~1900): “That which doesn’t kill us makes us stronger!”
Indeed. This is so true.
Most often when we go through a crisis in Life, we think it’s all over. And we can’t be blamed. Because the human mind thinks only logically. So, when you cannot see the light at the end of a dark tunnel, you have to rely on your mind’s assessment and conclusion that an endless dark tunnels goes nowhere. This is how fear and insecurity, which are manifestations of the mind, control and consume us. But what seemed like romantic philosophy from Nietzsche has found some scientific backing in recent times. In a 2011 report on the correlation between adversity and resilience, researcher Mark Seery, a psychologist at the University of Buffalo, in the US, says that although traumatic experiences such as losing a loved one can be psychologically damaging, small amounts of trauma can make us more resilient.
I have a more experiential take on this. If you look back at your own Life and make a list of your own “no-way-ahead” moments, you will realize that while those times were really dark, often scary, they were important for your personal evolution. When you reflect on them now, you find yourself both grateful for the experience__because it has made you tougher__and feel that the challenge, the crisis, gave your Life a new perspective.
Over the years, I have learned to make peace with my crises. After the initial shock of a crisis hitting me has subsided, I enquire within:

·         What is this situation trying to tell me?
·         What is the best decision/action I can take?
·         What collaborations/outside help must I seek?
·         What can I learn from it?
This approach has helped me immensely. It may not often solve the crisis for me immediately but gives me the courage and equanimity to face it and deal with it effectively. I have realized that every crisis has a teachable point of view. When you learn the lesson, a similar crisis may just arrive in some time – not to torment you, but it’s Life’s way of testing if you have indeed learned the lesson. And newer crises often arrive too, with levels of difficulty that are always higher, and far more complex, than the previous ones. So, in a way, Life’s like many of those computer games that people play. You get better with each game, with each play. Only to ascend in levels of challenge and learn to play the game better. Which is why, it makes imminent sense to remember what Nietzsche said and Clarkson sang!

Everyone has to bear their own cross in Life


Life and grief comes to each of us in different ways. Often times something may not be hurting you directly. Someone you love may be going through, pain, suffering, agony and grief. Watching that person suffer, will force grief on to you! The situation gets amplified when it is someone very, very dear __ a spouse, a child, a parent, sibling or very close friend.

How do you handle a situation where someone else’s suffering is consuming you?

There is no easy or one way to do this. Even so, it is possible to avoid being consumed by someone else’s suffering. Surely, you can make a beginning by seeing the situation as an opportunity to train yourself to be detached.

Yesterday, a friend called to say that his teenage daughter, who often has been prone to depression over the past few years, confessed to him that she “had lost interest in Life”. My friend lamented over the phone that he couldn’t handle “her suffering” anymore. The girl had been under medical treatment and was receiving counseling regularly. Her parents, I know, had been the most understanding, despite their conservative background. I could understand and empathize with my friend’s sense of helplessness and grief. “I am suffering watching her suffer. I feel I will break down. I need a solution. I demand to know why my child is undergoing this turmoil and why we have to be put through this,”he exclaimed.

“Why” is the simplest and the most profound of all questions! Answering Life’s “Whys” eludes all of us uniformly. Well, if only we knew the answers to our “Whys”, Life will no longer be a mystery, right? So, think of such a situation, as the one my friend is facing, as an opportunity to understand Life itself, your role in it and to practice detachment.

Understand, first of all, that each one in Life has to bear her or his own cross. In India, actor Sanjay Dutt’s impending return to jail, over a folly he committed 20 years ago, is making headlines because of the Supreme Court awarding him the sentence finally. Most people know that Dutt is both guilty and repentant. But despite his huge fan following and his network of admirers and believers including the powerful in India, Dutt may still have to go back to jail. Unless of course the Governor of the state pardons him. I remember seeing pictures of Dutt’s father, Sunil Dutt, waiting outside the Arthur Road jail in Mumbai, for days on end, during his son’s frequent incarcerations there. Dutt Senior did his jail duty diligently as long as he was alive. I am sure he was pained. Maybe he even died with some of that pain and a sense of incompletion that he could not see his son’s name cleared. This is true of each of our lives__that each of us has to face and endure the Life given to us. Obviously, this includes what even your own child has to go through! Very simply, the moment we are born, our Life meter starts ticking and our Life’s screenplay starts unfolding. A good amount of that screenplay will have several episodes of pain. If we grieve for each of them, either our own or for others, we will end up spending an entire lifetime simply grieving. Not living.

Once you realize this truth about Life, accept that the painful experience someone is going through is for them to learn something. Pain is a great teacher. She teaches us to stop expecting Life to be painless. She also teaches us that suffering is a meaningless option, that we often end up choosing by default! Without pain, there would be no suffering. Unless you suffer, you will not realize that it is a completely wasted response to Life. So, if someone you know is suffering, believe that they are actually learning something. When your child is studying hard, staying up awake most nights, for a school or University examination, do you grieve? Don’t you admire your child for the focus and resilience? Then why do you grieve when your child is having to face a real Life examination? Well it may not be a child all the time, but know that whoever is facing Life’s tests is surely learning invaluable lessons too.

Finally, this person you grieve for is not going to be there forever. Death is bound to separate you. If not now, some day. So, let go! Detach from wanting for things to be different for that person. Accept the current reality and the eventual reality__of a physical separation__and practice detachment. This does not mean you should not feel or pray for the person. Of course you must if you can and want to. Just don’t grieve though. Because grief debilitates. It takes away your spirit. It draws you further out of your inner core of happiness and peace.

All of us grow in Life. Our families have grown. We have grown. Our assets and wealth may have also grown. That growth’s pointing to the physical, financial and biological aspects of Life. But there is another dimension. Growing intelligently. Using such trying situations as personal growth opportunities__to practice detachment__is about evolving, about growing intelligently in Life!