Posted: April 2, 2020 in: Personal Empowerment, Pain-2-Power


“We are all broken.  That’s how the light gets in.”  These powerful words turn out to be a combination of quotes from Ernest Hemingway and Leonard Cohen. Cohen, the less well-known of the two men, was a Canadian singer, songwriter, poet and novelist.

I share the words here because my experience working with clients for over 25 years tells me they are the absolute truth. None of us escapes pain in life that causes an emotional fracture or fault line.  We all live through relationships that are less than unconditionally loving.  For many of us, sadly, through relationships that are not loving at all.  We experience setbacks and losses that can make us question our abilities or judgement.  We confront illnesses—just witness Coronavirus—that remind us how vulnerable we really are.  And since many of these pages of our life stories unfold during our early years, we are ill-equipped to put them into context and sustain our self-esteem.  We break—whether a little or a lot.

It is, indeed, at these broken places that the light can get in.  The pain of discovering we have false friends can shed light on how to choose true friends and teach us how valuable they truly are.  Failing to reach some of our goals can help us hone our skills and increase our determination to never quit.  Losing a loved one—as deep a fracture as that is—can and does teach us how profoundly important love really is and how crucial it is to speak of it and act on it with those we hold dear.

The trouble is that very often we don’t let the light in.  We cover over and patch up the places that are fractured and move on as though they don’t exist.  And by doing that, we prevent the light of life from reaching our hearts and minds.  We prevent ourselves from becoming stronger at the broken places.  Rather than learning crucial lessons, we avoid them and build on shaky foundations of denial—dodging and weaving around the most important life lessons of all.  This weakens us and sets us up for choices that further injure us.  That’s why I started Pain-2-Power, in the first place, by the way—to reverse that process, revisit the pages of our life stories we need to and harvest the extraordinary power that comes from doing so.

How do we start to open up the patched-over broken places and transform them into windows to see ourselves more powerfully?  One device I have advised is to think of yourself as a story.  In fact, picture yourself reading your own biography or autobiography.  Now, imagine that you come to three events or themes—paragraphs or whole chapters—that provoke such anxiety or sadness or regret—that you are tempted to cross them out or tear them out of the book.  You wouldn’t, of course, because every single paragraph and page of your life story makes you, you.  But think of the three you would be tempted to get rid of.  Guess what?  Those three events or themes in your life story are a good place to start thinking more about.  What lessons could be learned from them?  What insights could be gleaned?  And think about this:  How can unconditional love be part of your life, if those three events or themes aren’t ones you can also share with another human being?

Life is, indeed, all about letting the light in, at our broken places.  That’s not always easy to do.  But it is always the empowering thing to do.

Dr. Keith Ablow


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