02 April 2019

Dealing with things outside our control

One of the hardest lessons is how to deal with an event that we cannot control at all.
The society usually makes us believe that we can even influence everything around us. If you wish to get something that is out of your reach you get advice to try harder or pray.
I tried both. And neither had a positive effect. The only thing I accomplished is torturing myself.
One of the wise advice I got is to accept the things I cannot change. In theory, the advice is great but very, very hard to accomplish.
First, it is tough to figure out what actually I cannot change and what needs fixing on my side. From childhood, I was trained to try harder. But sometimes working harder just creates more problems.




I will start with the events that are easy to recognize as something outside our control, and in future posts talk about the events and situations that are harder to identify as situations out of our control.

Death, War, and Catastrophes


Another issue that creates problems in figuring out what we can and what cannot control is a pain that comes with loss or big scale tragedies.
My first experience with events like that happened during the civil war in my country of origin.
Before the war, I was not actually paying attention much to the events unfolding. I was more focused on the cute boy from my high-school and plans of what to do with my future. Like any high-school teenager would do.  I was aware of the news and weird separation between members of the different religious groups, but I was not taking it seriously because my best friend was from a different religious group and we were fine.
So when the war happened, it was a full surprise to me. All the plans I had for my future crashed down like a house of cards. I was slammed by the event that was entirely out of my control. Absolutely nothing I do could stop it, change it, or make it go away.

Then deaths started happening. Boys I played with as a kid started dying in war. I still remember during one of the funerals I attended, mother of the boy who got killed tried to throw herself on a coffin while it was lowered in the ground, screaming for the coffin to be opened, screaming how her son is not dead, he is just sleeping.
It took the death of my loved one to figure out the strange behavior that mother had. I experienced that same feeling of disbelief that everything connected to a dead person is now over. For good.
I experienced that feeling of loss and refusal that there is nothing one can do to change this new situation.

It is very, very hard to deal with those emotions. I went through a war, lost many friends, lost my relatives, lost my mother, and still, I go through all those blasted five phases of the acceptance of the death. Now, it is just faster to go through the process. I learned that it is essential to let the grief go through all those five phases naturally and cry when even emotions make my eyes water. That really speeds up the grieving process, and one gets back to a semblance of normality sooner.

Death really brings to focus on the reason why religions exist. If you research a bit, each and every religion deals on what happens after death. Each and every religion has some answer what happens after death. Also, every religion has rituals to help during the loss and grieving period. And those rituals are helpful with grief. They give some kind of framework to work through the pain and keep your sanity.
But it can backfire, if one takes religious promises of some continuation of life too seriously and get stuck in grief, never passing through all the five stages of the loss acceptance. So be careful if religion is your only option for help.
And if you are not religious you still can benefit from those rituals, just adapt the wording to something that reflects your own values. Such adaptation is normal for religious ceremonies. Many monotheistic rituals today are actually modified polytheistic rituals.

The worse situations are when several deaths appear one after another. I experienced that during the war, but it does not take catastrophy of such kind to experience a similar situation. Recently my husband suffered something similar losing one friend after another. There was no apparent, logical or any other sort of reason for such series of events. But he is going on through the same shaite I went through during the first two years of the civil war in my country of origin, losing one friend after another.

You get one hit after another, and after some time you lose the hope in future and start to tense up just waiting for another hit.
It is tough to go through such a period in life or even recover after it. Honestly, if you are going through a situation like that, please ask for professional help.

I did not, and that resulted in severe behavioral changes that I had to deal with for years. See, in situations like those I mentioned above one develops specific coping skills, and those are awesome while the situation lasts because it helps you survive.
The problems arise later when those coping skills become a daily habit that you keep even after the situation stops. Those same skills that helped you now are the problem that is preventing you from living a normal life. From a helpful tool, they turn into an obstacle.

I was faced with such realization the first time when I moved out of my country of origin. I moved to Germany, and the first lightbulb turned on during the language class. A teacher asked us how we should react in some situation. She described a mildly annoying situation of interacting with another human. She was calling the students across the class asking them to answer in German, and of course, I made answer in my own head in case she calls on me. But then I got stunned with the mildness of the responses of other students. Majority of them did not even see the situation as adverse as I did. My answer was full of aggression, and I interpreted the presented case as an attack. And I was the only one who saw it as an attack. No one else did.
For me, that was a sobering experience. It was like someone poured the cold water on me. Sadly, my interpretation of the situation was normal behavior and perception for my own country of origin. Such definition developed during the war's adversities and just kept on even when the war stopped. I left my country of origin approximately five years after the war finished. And if you think that five years are enough to shed the useless old patterns of behavior, you’re wrong. When the whole area is influenced by the same event, then such patterns of behavior become a norm, and healthy behavior is perceived as strange or crazy.

That’s why I recommended the help of the professional if you landed in the life situation where life kept on hitting and kicking you over a more prolonged period of the time. It is hard to realize that your own that bad situation ended. It took me more than 3 years outside of my country of origin to calm down and relax.
And I’m not joking about it. I did not even realize that I was not relaxed until the relaxation finally happened.

Death is one of the hardest life events to handle. It is final, harsh, unrelenting. It is an ultimate example of events we cannot control, and it is an event that makes us face our own mortality. Depending on how you face it, it will help you grow or froze you in fear and tension for years.

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