In today’s workplace, getting fired, passed over for a raise or promotion, and being under underutilized, can result in painful experiences that sap our strength and undermine our ability to cope.
So you got fired. It happens
We are going to be betrayed. People we love are going to die. Failures will happen.
When they do we will quickly be encouraged to move past our pain, overcome our sadness, blame others for our failures, suck it up, or just get over it.
While these exhortations give us a temporary boost, they do not have the staying power to relieve pain.
And relieve pain we must.
Our work is personal. What we do is part of who we are. Therefore not properly dealing with work related hurt can cause deep emotional pain that eventually depletes us– leading you to devalue your ability to perform and make good choices.
That is why before we can move on, we need to move through.
Moving through takes time. It requires courage and openness. It can lead us dangerously close to the things that scare us most. But the end result is that we allow ourselves to heal in a way that renews our energy and increases our ability to step forward into the next opportunity with strength and confidence.
The first aspect of moving through can be the scariest of all.
Let yourself feel
Experiencing emotion can be one of the hardest things in the world for people. From childhood, most of us were told “don’t be upset! You have nothing to be upset about!”
Some of us got, “If you stop being emotional, I’ll give you a cookie.” Or worse, “stop being emotional or I’ll ground you.” All of these send us the message that our emotions are too big and problematic for others and maybe even for ourselves.
Ultimately, the main point is moving through requires letting yourself feel the hurt. Feel the anger. Feel the embarrassment. You will survive your emotions.
And shoving them down or aside only results in making them more powerful.
Letting yourself feel leads to a deeper understanding of the roots of your pain and relieves stress. This is not a one-time event. It is an ongoing process that slowly reduces the intensity of the emotions.
Accept the things that cannot be
A respected mentor once told me, “Moving through requires accepting that there are things that cannot be.”
So much sadness and anger in life is expended on things that cannot be. Whether you believe in destiny, providence or simple cause and effect, a core reality of life is that each experience rules out some possibilities and shapes the direction of what can still be.
Yet we hold on to a belief that all options should be open to us at all times. At the very least we hold on to the idea that we should get to determine the options available to us.
Sometimes, for reasons beyond our control, options are taken away from us. There is pain involved in holding on to and trying to control this process.
Mourn the loss of one option or let yourself see the value in a narrowing of the field of options. Whatever you choose, at least you won’t be grasping at something that is no longer available to you.
Like the monkey stuck grasping the pebble in the bottom of the narrow-necked bottle, dropping the pebble can free you to explore the entire mountain of rocks.
Find meaning in the pain
The truth of life is that every experience we have leaves us with new meaning. But most of us avoid taking an active role in the process of making that meaning. We simply roll with whatever comes up for us which is fine when good things happen.
When hard things happen, the natural tendency of most is to fall back on pain inducing meaning. If we, instead, take an active role in shaping the meaning we can find motivation as opposed to the paralyzing fear of moving forward.
Choosing to be a conscious participant in the process of meaning making in your life can be a huge step in a journey toward healing. Like a bullet wound, pain and struggle leave us changed forever. All painful experiences leave us with scars.
But like physical wounds that must be uncovered, cleaned and stitched before you put a bandage on them to allow for healthy healing, emotional wounds require effort and care to heal.
Wounds will always leave a mark but if you put the time in to help them heal, your scar will be smaller and a testament to your strength and resilience, instead of something that holds you back from all your new possibilities.