Difficult Times Can Actually Be Healing

Difficult Times Can Actually Be Healing
Valeria Sabater

Written and verified by the psychologist Valeria Sabater.

Last update: 15 November, 2021

My most difficult times have taught me the most important lessons about life and growth. These were times when I managed to close up my wounds.

They were stages of slow healing that gave me high doses of self-love, a few drops of prudence, a lot of wisdom, and a moment for reflection. At the end of the day, few things demand so much of us. In these moments there are only two options: stay trapped, or move forward.

William Shakespeare said in his play “The Tempest” that whatever happens, even in the most tumultuous days, the hours pass. Time passes.

While it’s true that there is some logic in this reasoning, there’s also one aspect we can’t neglect. T he way we deal with the tempest will determine how it affects us later.

There is no tree that the wind has not shaken.

-Hindu Proverb-

So  if we obsessively cling to a traumatic event, disappointment, loss, or frustration, the days will pass one on top of the other, like how sticky sap traps an insect. We will become a shell of sadness and desperation covered in amber.

However, we can take advantage of our difficult times and use them to heal and get new strength. During these times, we can learn to accept the situation and see it through new eyes. If we do this, time will always move forward — in our favor.

Now, we should mention that this path is not easy. Almost none of us are prepared for these onslaughts. No one tells us how we’re supposed to handle these things that fate sometimes puts right in our path.

difficult times feel like you're sinking

Difficult times, complex chapters of our lives

Most of us prefer things to be easy. We choose the shortest distance between two points. We can’t tolerate uncertainty. We prefer leisure over worry and we like things to happen just as we plan.

Actually, these preferences aren’t at all negative. They aren’t bad because this is exactly what our brain is trying to do: avoid risk, economize energy, and survive in the controlled, perfect spot called our “comfort zone”.

Nevertheless, we all know that difficult times come in many forms and when we least expect them. They may take the form of a money problem, a break-up, a loss, a deceit, or even an existential crisis.

These hard situations usually have some things in common. They involve a loss of control of our life, a feeling of vulnerability, a self-esteem crisis, defenselessness, and fear. They blur our today, erase who we are, and turn us into a scribble of disconnected lines.

an autumn leaf in a journal

One interesting strategy that psychology gives us to deal with these situations is to convert them into times of reflection. We should learn to shape our own story and make it about healing, reflection, change, and new perspectives. 

This in-between time of connection with ourselves may just give rise to a chapter that is more satisfying, full, and authentic.

Narrative therapy for difficult times.

If you’ve never heard of narrative therapy, now is a good time to learn about it. We’re talking about a therapeutic strategy in which the person gradually becomes an expert in her own life.

She becomes an expert by reflecting and reorganizing her thoughts and narrating her story. She is able to understand why things happened how they happened, and she has the opportunity to “create” alternative stories that will help her get past the current problem.

“There are only two days in the year that nothing can be done. One is called Yesterday and the other is called Tomorrow. Today is the right day to Love, Believe, Do and mostly Live.”

-Dalai Lama-

The good thing about this therapy is that the person feels like the protagonist of their own story. It also helps them see difficult times as vital chapters of their life, an opportunity for growth.

They are healing moments when we become heroes, as well as authors and creators of better chapters in our life.

Let’s take a look at what narrative therapy is.

a woman with flowing clothes at the edge of a cliff

Characteristics of Narrative Therapy

  • Basically, narrative therapy is a reflexive process. The psychological task is for the person to explain their story exactly as they perceive it.
  • The therapist acts as a facilitator. She will ask pertinent questions to help them delve deeper into their stories. She will highlight certain subjects and patterns and invite them to make more profound, complex reflections.
  • While narrating, the person must take into account things that she may not have wanted to see before. She will have to consider feelings and emotions that were hidden before.
  • This therapy seeks to answer questions like “Who are you?”, “What is it that you want now?”, and “What do you need to tell the story you truly want?”
  • So often, we humans have stories that we’ve tucked away, forgotten, or neglected. Past dreams, projects abandoned because of indecision or perhaps fear. Sometimes it’s important to recover these stories so we can write new chapters in our life.

Difficult times require us to take charge of our stories. If we don’t, we’ll lose control and become just another actor in the cast. But if we grab the reins and take control, we’ll see that these are stages in our life for healing, learning new lessons, and reflection.

Let’s think today about the story we want to live tomorrow…

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.