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I believe it is time for a social movement—a revolution, if you will. I’m calling it Radical Responsibility and Awesome Appreciation. It is based on the work of many giants who have come before: namely Reinhold Niebuhr, the author of the Serenity Prayer, William Glasser, Byron Katie and John Demartini. If you haven’t read last week’s blog on Radical Responsibility, I invite you to. It is the precursor to Awesome Appreciation, which I will unpack here. Of all the things I teach, this concept garners the most resistance.
When I speak of Awesome Appreciation, I’m talking about a concept I gleaned from John Demartini in The Breakthrough Experience, a book I read as my husband was dying. In it, Demartini wrote of the periodic table of elements, something I vaguely remember learning in high school. He reminds his readers that every element in our naturally occurring universe has an equal amount of protons and electrons; each element is perfectly balanced with an equal positive and negative charge. From that core concept, he extrapolates that our life experiences are the same way.
Whenever something horrible happens to us, there is an equal level of positivity associated with it. This sounds crazy to the average person, especially as the horrible thing unfolds. When something painful occurs in our life, our brains focus on the pain, as our brains are hardwired for negativity. This has some evolutionary value. If we are living in a war zone, it is critical to notice when something is amiss, but as we live our lives in relative safety, this hyper focus on what’s wrong does not serve us.
When something painful happens in our life, we can know, as it’s happening, that there is equal positivity associated with that pain. We may not know what it is, but we can take temporary solace in the fact that we know it exists. We don’t have to search for it right away; just knowing that it’s there can help you through the experience. When you are ready, you can seek out what I have come to call the GLOW: the gifts, lessons, opportunities and wisdom you have received from the experience.
This is often in direct opposition to the victim mentality. People can fall into this when something terrible happens and society has convinced them that they will never be the same, they are somehow permanently altered from the experience and they are broken, never to be whole again. I believe there are people in the mental health profession who perpetuate this notion. People can be permanently altered from negative events, but only when they are unable to find the GLOW. Most people will never find it because, first, they don’t know it’s there, and second, they don’t where to look to find it.
Things happen to us that we have no control over. Loved ones get sick, people die, jobs are lost, there are natural disasters, relationships end and crimes are committed. No one asks for it, nor does anyone have any control over when tragedy and trauma comes or goes. It just happens. It sucks. Our first instinct is to rail against the unfairness of it all, and we wonder, “Why me?” Why not you? What makes you so special that you would be spared challenges in life? If we want the privilege of living, sometimes bad things happen. It is our job, when tragedy strikes, to find the positive. What are the gifts, lessons, opportunities and wisdom in the experience?
My husband died when he was 37. It was a tragedy in my life, a very painful experience. He had leukemia and there was no good match for him in the donor bank. I could have spent the rest of my life grieving and asking the question, “Why did this have to happen to me? It’s not fair!” But instead, I accepted that it happened. Acceptance needs to happen before you can reach appreciation, but so often, we don’t want to accept the inconceivable. Who wants to accept they were sexually assaulted? Who wants to accept the death of their child? No one, but it does no good to fight the reality of your life. You can deny and fight it, you can ignore it, or you can accept it. Fighting it will not make it go away, nor will ignoring it. Nothing can—it has happened, it is done. You have no control over the reality of the horror. But what you can do is fight. You can fight to take your life back after trauma and tragedy. If you do not choose this path, then the perpetrator of the offense, or the offense itself, gets to control you and hold you hostage for the rest of your life.
When you recognize that there is an equal amount of positivity hidden in this terrible thing, you can accept facts and then seek out that positivity. The positivity is often evident in hindsight. You must have heard that expression, “hindsight is 20/20.” Once you have achieved distance from the situation, you can see how whatever happened was actually a good thing, or a neutral thing, even though it seemed like anything else at the time. This often happens when relationships or jobs end. You later look back in appreciation, realizing the end of that relationship or job led you to a much better experience.
However, this movement of Awesome Appreciation means that, whenever something horrible is happening to you, you don’t wait for hindsight. You remember in the moment that an equal amount of positive matches the amount of pain you’re experiencing. You then begin the arduous journey to find the positive. Typically, it starts with recognizing some positivity, but not enough to create an equal balance. This comes with time, energy and work.
Once you have balanced the pain with equal positivity, you are no longer hostage to the event, circumstances, or perpetrator. You are free. It doesn’t change what happened, but it removes you from the victim role. You still know the pain of what happened, but you have found your personal gifts, lessons, opportunities and wisdom to balance it out.
When you commit to the movement of Radical Responsibility and Awesome Appreciation, you are committed to take 100 percent responsibility for those things you control, while committing to search for ways to appreciate those events in your life you didn’t choose and can’t control. Are you in? If you are, please type yes below. I will roll out this movement once I have 100 people interested in joining and sharing the concepts with others. Please let me know if that’s you by leaving the word, yes, in a comment below. Thank you!
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