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Disaster or a Rite-of-Passage?

“A rite of passage is a series of events that help a person move from one life stage to another and, in the process, transforms them.”

I coach women whose lives have thrown them an unexpected plot twist. Whether the plot twist transforms you or not is a choice. Will your “Series of Unfortunate Events” (to quote Lemony Snicket) become a rite of passage or a chapter in your story that you hope never to read again?

“In any rite of passage, a person is confronted with her own fears. A major task is to learn how to deal with them” (p. 10). How do you choose to deal with your fears? We generally fear something because we think it will cause us some kind of pain – physical, emotional, spiritual, or social. We live in a society that is extremely pain-avoidant. When you feel a headache coming on – take an Advil. When you are feeling stressed, escape to Netflix, have a drink, go shopping. Avoidance is how our society deals with pain. We are taught that “pain is wrong. The only way to make things right again is to stop it. Get rid of it” (p. 11).

“As long as we view…pain as bad – something to be gotten rid of – we will shield ourselves from it. But we must ask ourselves, ‘At what cost?’ The pain itself may be a call to a deeper adventure” (p. 11). Each painful experience in life gives us the opportunity to make a choice to learn from it or escape from it.

“Challenges of all kinds – physical, emotional, and spiritual – force us to the edge our limits and help us discover that we have within ourselves the wisdom and the resources to deal with whatever is on the other side” (p. 10). Pain is part of the process. “To deny the pain is to deny the growth” (p. 17). Will you deny yourself the growth that can come from your plot twist?

As McGrath points out, through the process of dealing with the challenge and the pain, you learn that you have “the resources to deal with whatever is on the other side” (p. 11). How do you get that confidence while you are going through the process? Confidence is a feeling that you generate from your thoughts. In a painful situation, your default thought is something like, “This is devastating, and I don’t know if I can handle it.” Oh, how that thought hurts! I can feel it in my chest even as I write it.

That thought feels very real. I understand that. It is, however, one thought amongst millions that you can think. And you can absolutely choose to think that, if you want, but play with me for a minute here. What if you thought, “I’m on the right path”? What if you believed, “I am safe and focused as I work through this circumstance”? What if you truly believed, “Nothing has gone wrong here”? How would your experience of the circumstance change? Would you have more confidence to get through it? Would that confidence allow you to search for and discover “the resources to deal with whatever is on the other side” (p. 11)?

What is the “deeper adventure” that pain is calling you towards? As you allow the pain to be okay instead of “wrong” or something you must eliminate, you gain confidence in your abilities. Your ability to handle pain. Your ability to face things head-on. Your ability to feel your emotions. Your ability to find creative solutions even if they don’t eliminate the pain. McGrath put it so beautifully, “It doesn’t help to run from our fears. When we do, they are likely to spill out and affect us more in later life. Instead, we must turn around and face them. When we (as humans) are invited to move…toward what we fear, it often comes as a relief. It gives permission for our fear to be worked through rather than avoided” (p. 10).

As you give yourself permission to feel the fear and let the pain transform you, you elevate your experience from what you may have considered a disaster to a rite of passage. “In any rite of passage, you leave one life place – a place that you know – and enter another, a place that you don’t know. Crossing a boundary is never an easy time” (p. 8). As we move to that new life place “without a map, facing unpredictable obstacles. It means resisting the ever-present temptation to walk someone else’s path. Perhaps an easier one, or one better marked. The way is difficult, but failure to way [our] own path may be more difficult still” (p. 15).

We must each forge our own path to the next stage in our life. You get to write what comes after this current plot twist. You have permission for fear and pain to be okay. You can skip the society-approved pain-numbing and allow yourself just to feel the emotions. As you release your resistance to them, you open to the opportunity to learn from them. Your plot twist can become a life-affirming rite-of-passage.

All quotes in this blog are from Kathy McGrath’s excellent article:

McGrath, K., (2007). Finding the path. The journal of perinatal education, 16(2), 7-15.

If you’d like help turning your plot twist into a life-affirming rite-of-passage, click here to set up a time to chat and see if we are a great fit for working together.
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