Dear Dr. Norquist:
This has been the worst couple of years of my life. My husband lost his job. I work for a bank that is being acquired by another bank, and things have been incredibly stressful at work. My mother suffered a stroke and needs a lot of help from me. I’m also worried about my son, who is marrying a woman who I don’t believe is good for him. Too much stress and too much worry, that is me most days. How can I best deal with these hard times in life?
Dr. Norquist responds:
When going through hard times, try to see what you can gain from the experience. The natural tendency during these times is to focus on what we have lost; faith, hope, health, relationships, etc. Hard times will always come and go. I try to fight back by focusing on what I can gain, rather than sit back and allow the losses to accrue. The question is what can the hard times teach us? How can we use these experiences to become more skilled at living? Pain and suffering has another side. It leaves wisdom and compassion in its wake. It widens our vision and deepens our sense of connection with humanity.
Suffering illuminates our character, and carves upon our souls in unique ways. There is an art to living. I am in awe of joyful survivors of painful life experiences; those who retain and refine their humor, look with wonder at everyday life, and feel another’s pain as if it where their own. The Egyptians speak of an afterlife where the weight of one’s heart is the most important measure. The goal is to enter the afterlife with a heart that is as light as a feather. Those who can accomplish this are the true masters of the art of living.
Viewing your current difficulties from this perspective will hopefully lend meaning and purpose to these hard times, leaving you feeling lighter and more empowered in managing your life.
(Dr. Sallie Norquist is a licensed psychologist (NJ #2371) in private practice and is director of Chaitanya Counseling Services, a center for upliftment and enlivenment, in Hoboken.)Dr. Norquist and the staff of Chaitanya invite you to write them at Chaitanya Counseling Services, 51 Newark St., Suite 202, Hoboken, NJ 07030 or www.chaitanya.com or by e-mail at email@example.com, or by fax at (201) 656-4700. Questions can address various topics, including relationships, life’s stresses, difficulties, mysteries and dilemmas, as well as questions related to managing stress or alternative ways of understanding health-related concerns. 2015 Chaitanya Counseling Services