“The heartache and the thousand natural shocks
That flesh is heir to”
William Shakespeare – Hamlet
There may not be a thousand and they may not be natural, but life seems to hand us a fair number of shocks. By shocks I mean the awful and unexpected – disease, car accidents, being betrayed by a friend, an unexpected death of someone close, a job loss, the loss of a love. Again, what makes them a shock is the unexpectedness of them. Troubles are hard enough when we expect them, but there’s a different kind of suffering we undergo when they hit us out of the blue.
What do we do with the shocks? There are no simple answers, but the following steps have worked for me.
First, accept your pain. This is actually the worst part of it. There may be more grieving or difficulties later, but the initial shock is the worst. You might feel hurt, sad, or angry, but mostly you will feel disoriented. You won’t know what to think or say or do. You may try to fix the situation or at least make sense of it, but you won’t be able to. This makes it worse. You may go through a gamut of emotions all at once, but you really won’t know what to feel or what to do.
The other part of shock may be a sense of disbelief. When my best friend died at 18, I could not intellectually or emotionally accept it. “How can be dead? He’s only 18. I just talked to him the other day.”
The disbelief is powerful. I once lost a job I loved. It was completely unexpected. I knew that layoffs were coming, but I thought I was too valuable to be let go. When I found out otherwise, I literally couldn’t believe it. I remember going to the movies that night, but all I could think, over and over, was, “How could I have lost my job?”
Second, accept that the pain, as great as it feels at the moment, will pass. It will still hurt for a while and depending on the situation, may recur. You might feel anger, sadness or fear but they won’t feel as bad as the initial shock. Eventually, given time and getting help if necessary, the pain of most difficulties pass. For those who are still grieving a pain that is more than a year old, I recommend getting help to process the grief.
Third, make a decision. Take action, or accept what is. Or do a little of both. There’s not a single answer to all of life’s difficulties, but decide on a course of action and then move forward. Moving forward might mean doing nothing at all. The important thing is to make a decision and not allow your emotions to decide.
Fourth, get back in your Purpose. Today I experienced another shock, but after I calmed down I thought, “Sometimes I think all problems are sent to us to either keep us from our Purpose, or drive us deeper into it. My resolve is being tested once more. Okay, great, now get back to work.”
Maybe all problems are nothing but distractions.
So I’m writing now and I notice my sense of shock is gone. Tomorrow I might have to deal with some unpleasantness. My plan is this: I will do whatever it takes to get the unpleasantness to pass quickly. Then I will get back to writing as quickly as possible. I was not created to suffer. I was created to do my work and live joyfully. We were all created to Get Started and Keep Going. To live otherwise is too much of a shock.