Posted: January 20, 2022 in: Pain-2-Power

How to Put Past Losses into Context

I don’t know anyone who hasn’t had to deal with losing something—and often in a very painful way.  Here, I don’t mean losing loved ones to illness or losing one’s own health or youth.  I mean sustaining losses when one has the suspicion or is certain that he or she fell short—in launching a business that didn’t succeed, in picking investments that resulted in big losses, in underperforming in an irreparably damaged friendship or romantic relationship or marriage.  These losses are hard to deal with not because they seem avoidable—if only one had been more resourceful or more disciplined or more forward-thinking.

Losses like these can be the haunting ones, especially because we tend to see them as snapshots.  We remember “that time” we invested too much in a stock that tanked.  We remember “that time” we said the wrong thing, at the wrong time, in the wrong frame of mind and lost a dear friend.  For some people, they remember the “exact time” they decided to bend rules and ended up in a lawsuit, in a bind or even in a jail cell.

Snapshots, though, are far too circumscribed a lens to use to view losses resulting from times we fell short.  Because life is a motion picture.  And the human tendency to see the individual frames as stories unto themselves neglects the fact that we all have lessons to learn in this life.  And what we learn—sometimes very painfully, through our own foibles and failings—is meant to be the prelude to growth and to gains.

Is it easy to believe this when the pain of a well-deserved loss is upon us?  No.  It is very difficult.  That’s why you need a strategy.

One part of the strategy to put losses into context is to adopt an attitude of wonder about them.  “I wonder how this will all turn out to the good?”  “I wonder how to show strength in the face of this adversity?”  “I wonder what God is trying to tell me?”  Searching for the silver linings in losses isn’t pie-in-the-sky thinking.  It isn’t donning rose-colored glasses.  It’s putting oneself in harmony with the way life actually works.  Because “the comeback” is the iconic human story.  It is the story of every hero in every compelling book or film.

Wondering how your story will be a comeback story doesn’t do away with all the pain of a loss.  You’ll still feel it.  In fact, it is the willingness to be open to wonder, amidst pain, that begins the healing.  Redemption and renewal awaits those who keep their eyes open in the dark, in order that they may see the light.

Another part of the strategy to put losses into context is to acknowledge that your strength in countenancing them may itself inspire those around you, in ways you may never know.  What parents wouldn’t want their children to watch them stick together and stay focused on rebuilding, were a family business to fail?  What business team wouldn’t be steeled by watching a CEO look squarely at a setback and set out to win, despite it?

Joseph Campbell said it pretty well when he wrote in The Hero of a Thousand Faces that what the soul really wants is a story.

Yours is not over—not when you are intent on keeping the pen in your hand and the ink flowing.

Dr. Keith Ablow

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