How to find the silver lining in life’s mishaps

You may have noticed that life isn’t always a bed of roses.

It is almost inevitable that “stuff happens” for us as we make our way through life and sometimes this “stuff” can be a lot to bear.

Folk wisdom and some religious traditions invite us to look for the gift or the learning in difficult situations.

We are told that “Every cloud has a silver lining” or “Look for the gift in every experience”.

It’s a nice thought that sometimes things may be for the best, but at the time of our distress we may not be able to think that way. If part of your life is disintegrating then being told that there is a silver lining can be a little hard to take if not impossible. If you’re stuck in the middle of something bad it can be very hard to think that way.

This article describes a simple technique to change your perspective on the small to moderate difficulties in our lives, the everyday setbacks and disappointments that occur for all of us.

This technique is not intended for working with major life challenges such as traumas, bereavements and the other big problems that life sometimes throws at us, these situations require much deeper help and healing than can be achieved from a simple technique.

I was listening to an Internet discussion between two EFT practitioners – Gene Monterastelli and Carol Look. They were talking about developing a sense of gratitude for life and the topic of how to deal with challenging situations came up.

One of Gene’s suggestions for what to do when problem situations arose was to ask yourself the following question:

“How could this situation, in one year’s time, be the best thing that ever happened to me?”

This question is a great way of looking for the silver lining of your particular cloud, for several reasons.

1. It is a question

We are suckers for questions even if we don’t know the answer, something inside us starts to look for an answer.

If I tell you: “There is a silver lining in this cloud!” then you may or may not agree. If you are deep in the middle of a problem, the chances are you are going to disagree.

If I ask you: “How could this cloud have a silver lining?” then your mind will start to mull over the possibilities.

A question is much less threatening than a declaration and instinctively we will start to consider the possibilities. We might not come up with an answer but the fact that the idea is delivered as a question will encourage you to think about it rather than jump to a conclusion.

2. It presupposes you survive the situation.

If you have to think of the answer to the question “how will I think about this a year from now” then you have to accept at some level that you will have come through the situation and made it to next year to be able to answer the question.

Many difficult situations have the feeling that they will always be this way, that you will be stuck in this difficulty for ever. Phrasing the question in this way implies that you will move through this experience and be able to look back at what happened. This helps consider the possibility that you might get through the current situation.

3. It presupposes that the situation is for your best

Rather than having to dwell on how awful this current situation is, who is to blame and how it could be the worst thing that ever happened to you, this question invites you to wonder how this predicament might be good for you.

In fact it asks you to consider how this situation may be the best thing that ever happened to you. This is not normally the way we tend to think about problems.

Although you will know that some people who have been in very challenging situations, life threatening situations or medical problems may say that it was the best thing that ever happened to them.

Thinking that this situation is all for the best is probably going to help you be much more resourceful than thinking this is the worst thing that ever happened to me.

4. Asking this question gives you hindsight in advance.

When we look back on our lives, the things we did, the mistakes we made, the problems we overcame, we have the advantage of hindsight. We came through those events and can look back at how they fitted into our lives. We have a perspective that lets us make sense of the big picture.

At the time we are caught up in those events we may not have a clear idea of what is going on, it can all be very confusing or disorientating.

By inviting us to go one year into the future and look back on these events we have the opportunity to apply some of that hindsight perspective to what is going on in this moment. And at a difficult time like this a little bit of wisdom can go a long way.

5. You can integrate the event into the story of your life.

We all have a story of our lives, we like to put our experience into an overall narrative of our existence. To make sense of what happened and what it means to us.

When we have a difficult or traumatic experience this narrative is disrupted. What we thought our lives meant can be severely challenged. We might not know what is going on, who we are supposed to be and what we are supposed to do.

Being invited into the future to reflect on what has happened allows us to start weaving this event into our personal story. Putting the difficulty into a broader context helps us come to terms with the problem we are having now.

6. Having had this “experience of the future” you may know what you need to do.

If you are in the middle of a problem or being stuck, you may not have much idea of what to do next, everything is too confusing or overwhelming.

Processing this experience from an imagined future perspective may give you some good ideas of what to do next, of how to move on from this experience into the future you have imagined.

Of course there are no guarantees that you will get that particular future, but you will have a better idea of the course to set.

Will asking yourself this question solve everything?

No, probably not.

The purpose of this question is not to solve all your problems, it is to give you a way of thinking about what is going on so you can do something about it.

Difficulties vary and the power of this question to help will vary depending on the circumstances.

Some problems: the loss of a job, a serious illness, the death of a spouse and so forth would take a lot more healing than you can get from this question.

For a variation on this process read “Letter from the future“.

You can find out more about Gene Monterastelli’s work at tappingqanda.com

Image courtesy of Aaron Escobar

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