Alchemizing Ordinary Adversity
Sometimes the cashier doesn’t make eye-contact and tells you to have a nice day in a tone of voice that sounds more like a thinly veiled “go to hell.”
Sometimes a customer or a coworker communicates in an off-putting way. Where I thought I deserved appreciation, I received reprimand.
The mail doesn’t come on time. The dishwasher stops working… You get the gist.
We all run into these mundane “obstacles” in our lives.
Yesterday I experienced a bit of pain with someone where I thought I deserved appreciation and instead I received reproach.
I see where I was not prepared for that situation, and I let it take me down momentarily.
Here are a few ways I’ve been turning this pain into power (and by “power” I mean “energy” or “the ability to respond” i.e., “responsibility”). Maybe by reading my experience you can find some insight to more efficiently alchemize adverse situations in your own life:
Practicing conscious forgiveness and compassion
Part of me wants to condemn this person. “They have no right to speak to me like that, etc.” When I remind myself that this person was doing the best they could in the moment, I can summon some degree of compassion. I don’t know what’s really going on in their life. I don’t know what difficult experiences they’ve been through that could have them communicating with me out of a place of trauma or unconsciousness.
I’ve been asking for help from my Qigong and other spiritual masters whom I often talk to. “Please help me forgive this person. Please help me to understand any lessons I can learn from this experience. Please help me to have compassion and not to condemn.”
I know that forgiveness and compassion are the keys to my healing and spiritual development. And I want to heal and develop spiritually. I also know that harboring anger and hatred is damaging to my health and I want to experience robust vitality. I don’t want to hurt myself by holding a grudge.
So I keep asking my spiritual masters for help until I feel clear.
Mundane adversity can trigger much larger pre-existing trauma
When a small affront or adversity triggers a disproportionately large emotional response, that is a flashing red light clue that there is a deeper trauma being pointed to, and this is actually an excellent opportunity for freedom.
It was important for me to admit to myself that I felt hurt by the experience, and even that it hurt much more than it “should” have. This is not condemning the person at the level of pain I’m experiencing, this is recognizing and admitting a personal level of pain that until I accept it, I will not be able to fully let it go, to fully heal.
This also allows me an opportunity to ask important, transformational questions:
Why did this seemingly trivial slight feel so extreme?
I can brainstorm for some old, unhelpful beliefs which may have been there the whole time before, influencing my life from behind the scenes, just out of reach of my awareness:
“No one cares about me.”
“I don’t get the appreciation I deserve.”
“I need love and I don’t get it.”
“I’m not enough.”
“I’m not respected enough.”
And the list can go on.
The value in identifying these unhelpful beliefs is that by becoming aware of them I have taken the first step toward eradicating them, and I can then plant the seeds of new beliefs which serve me much better:
“I care about me!”
“Many people DO care about me!”
“Many people appreciate me, and I always appreciate myself whether or not others appreciate me.”
“I am love and love is forever.”
“I am enough.”
“I respect myself regardless of the respect I perceive coming from others.”
In these types of situations, the Ho’Opono Pono can also be extraordinarly useful:
“I’m sorry. Please forgive me. Thank you. I love you.” (Repeat multiple times.)
The goal is to forgive, to let go of anger, to relax our hearts and keep awareness in the heart-space. The Ho’Oponopono brings awareness straight back to the heart every time.
External vs internal validation
I can also begin to see the ways in which I might be relying on an external source for my sense of value, appreciation, respect and happiness.
The degree to which we rely on an external source for our sense of “enoughness” is the degree to which our sense of enoughness will rise and fall. E.g., when people love me or validate me, I’m elated. When people don’t love me or don’t treat me well, I’m devastated.
This is not to say that asking for and expecting respect, love and appreciation is not critical. Of course it is. I’m not suggesting anyone should tolerate abuse.
What I’m suggesting, in this examples, is that we recognize and remember that sometimes in life people are going to let us down when we expect them to treat us how we would like to be treated.
Unless I admit total responsibility for my own experience, I will remain a victim. To the extent that I blame an external source for my misery, I disempower myself. I pretend I’m not free. Pretending I’m not free (that is to say, responsible) is counterproductive to my freedom and wellbeing.
To quote the famous stoic philosopher Marcus Aurelius, from his treatise Meditations:
“When you wake up in the morning, tell yourself: the people I deal with today will be meddling, ungrateful, arrogant, dishonest, jealous and surly. They are like this because they can’t tell good from evil. But I have seen the beauty of good, and the ugliness of evil, and have recognized that the wrongdoer has a nature related to my own – not of the same blood and birth, but the same mind, and possessing a share of the divine. And so none of them can hurt me. No one can implicate me in ugliness. Nor can I feel angry at my relative, or hate him. We were born to work together like feet, hands and eyes, like the two rows of teeth, upper and lower. To obstruct each other is unnatural. To feel anger at someone, to turn your back on him: these are unnatural.”
Grist for the mill
As a result of processing our run-of-the-mill or “ordinary adversity,” as I’ve called it, we can come out the other side as more mature people, more capable of forgiveness and compassion, more deeply rooted in a sustainable, internally-sourced wellbeing, less reliant on the vagaries of external validation for our happiness.
In this way, we turn our pain into power. Adversity becomes fuel for our ever-growing aliveness.
P.S. If you’d like to experience turning your pain into power in an accelerated way, to step into more of your brilliance, to align more fully with your life’s purpose, or to gain more clarity and quicker results in your health, wealth or relationships, sign up for some 1-1 life coaching with me here. Also, please share this post with 1 person who might enjoy it!