Everything Doesn’t Happen For A Reason- Tim Lawrence
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Everything Doesn’t Happen For A Reason- Tim Lawrence

By Tim Lawrence

I emerge from this conversation dumbfounded. I’ve seen this a million times before, but it still gets me every time.

I’m listening to a man tell a story. A woman he knows was in a devastating car accident; her life shattered in an instant. She now lives in a state of near-permanent pain; a paraplegic; many of her hopes stolen.

He tells of how she had been a mess before the accident, but that the tragedy had engendered positive changes in her life. That she was, as a result of this devastation, living a wonderful life.

And then he utters the words. The words that are responsible for nothing less than emotional, spiritual and psychological violence:

Everything happens for a reason. That this was something that had to happen in order for her to grow.

That’s the kind of bullshit that destroys lives. And it is categorically untrue.

It is amazing to me that so many of these myths persist—and that is why I share actionable tools and strategies to work with your pain in my free newsletter. These myths are nothing more than platitudes cloaked as sophistication, and they preclude us from doing the one and only thing we must do when our lives are turned upside down: grieve.

You know exactly what I’m talking about. You’ve heard these countless times. You’ve probably even uttered them a few times yourself. And every single one of them needs to be annihilated.

Let me be crystal clear: if you’ve faced a tragedy and someone tells you in any way, shape or form that your tragedy was meant to be, that it happened for a reason, that it will make you a better person, or that taking responsibility for it will fix it, you have every right to remove them from your life.

Grief is brutally painful. Grief does not only occur when someone dies. When relationships fall apart, you grieve. When opportunities are shattered, you grieve. When dreams die, you grieve. When illnesses wreck you, you grieve.

So I’m going to repeat a few words I’ve uttered countless times; words so powerful and honest they tear at the hubris of every jackass who participates in the debasing of the grieving:

Some things in life cannot be fixed. They can only be carried.

These words come from my dear friend Megan Devine, one of the only writers in the field of loss and trauma I endorse. These words are so poignant because they aim right at the pathetic platitudes our culture has come to embody on a increasingly hopeless level. Losing a child cannot be fixed. Being diagnosed with a debilitating illness cannot be fixed. Facing the betrayal of your closest confidante cannot be fixed.

They can only be carried.

I hate to break it to you, but although devastation can lead to growth, it often doesn’t. The reality is that it often destroys lives. And the real calamity is that this happens precisely because we’ve replaced grieving with advice. With platitudes. With our absence.

I now live an extraordinary life. I’ve been deeply blessed by the opportunities I’ve had and the radically unconventional life I’ve built for myself. Yet even with that said, I’m hardly being facetious when I say that loss has not in and of itself made me a better person. In fact, in many ways it’s hardened me.

While so much loss has made me acutely aware and empathetic of the pains of others, it has made me more insular and predisposed to hide. I have a more cynical view of human nature, and a greater impatience with those who are unfamiliar with what loss does to people.

Above all, I’ve been left with a pervasive survivor’s guilt that has haunted me all my life. This guilt is really the genesis of my hiding, self-sabotage and brokenness.

In short, my pain has never been eradicated, I’ve just learned to channel it into my work with others. I consider it a great privilege to work with others in pain, but to say that my losses somehow had to happen in order for my gifts to grow would be to trample on the memories of all those I lost too young; all those who suffered needlessly, and all those who faced the same trials I did early in life, but who did not make it.

I’m simply not going to do that. I’m not going to construct some delusional narrative fallacy for myself so that I can feel better about being alive. I’m not going to assume that God ordained me for life instead of all the others so that I could do what I do now. And I’m certainly not going to pretend that I’ve made it through simply because I was strong enough; that I became “successful” because I “took responsibility.”

There’s a lot of “take responsibility” platitudes in the personal development space, and they are largely nonsense. People tell others to take responsibility when they don’t want to understand.

Because understanding is harder than posturing. Telling someone to “take responsibility” for their loss is a form of benevolent masturbation. It’s the inverse of inspirational porn: it’s sanctimonious porn.

Personal responsibility implies that there’s something to take responsibility for. You don’t take responsibility for being raped or losing your child. You take responsibility for how you choose to live in the wake of the horrors that confront you, but you don’t choose whether you grieve. We’re not that smart or powerful. When hell visits us, we don’t get to escape grieving.

This is why all the platitudes and fixes and posturing are so dangerous: in unleashing them upon those we claim to love, we deny them the right to grieve.

In so doing, we deny them the right to be human. We steal a bit of their freedom precisely when they’re standing at the intersection of their greatest fragility and despair.

No one—and I mean no one—has that authority. Though we claim it all the time.

The irony is that the only thing that even can be “responsible” amidst loss is grieving.

So if anyone tells you some form of get over it, move on, or rise above, you can let them go.

If anyone avoids you amidst loss, or pretends like it didn’t happen, or disappears from your life, you can let them go.

If anyone tells you that all is not lost, that it happened for a reason, that you’ll become better as a result of your grief, you can let them go.

Let me reiterate: all of those platitudes are bullshit.

You are not responsible to those who try to shove them down your throat. You can let them go.

I’m not saying you should. That is up to you, and only up to you. It isn’t an easy decision to make and should be made carefully. But I want you to understand that you can.

I’ve grieved many times in my life. I’ve been overwhelmed with shame and self-hatred so strong it’s nearly killed me.

The ones who helped—the only ones who helped—were those who were there. And said nothing.

In that nothingness, they did everything.

I am here—I have lived—because they chose to love me. They loved me in their silence, in their willingness to suffer with me, alongside me, and through me. They loved me in their desire to be as uncomfortable, as destroyed, as I was, if only for a week, an hour, even just a few minutes.

Most people have no idea how utterly powerful this is.

Are there ways to find “healing” amidst devastation? Yes. Can one be “transformed” by the hell life thrusts upon them? Absolutely. But it does not happen if one is not permitted to grieve. Because grief itself is not an obstacle.

The obstacles come later. The choices as to how to live; how to carry what we have lost; how to weave a new mosaic for ourselves? Those come in the wake of grief. It cannot be any other way.

Grief is woven into the fabric of the human experience. If it is not permitted to occur, its absence pillages everything that remains: the fragile, vulnerable shell you might become in the face of catastrophe.

Yet our culture has treated grief as a problem to be solved, an illness to be healed, or both. In the process, we’ve done everything we can to avoid, ignore, or transform grief. As a result, when you’re faced with tragedy you usually find that you’re no longer surrounded by people, you’re surrounded by platitudes.

What to Offer Instead

When a person is devastated by grief, the last thing they need is advice. Their world has been shattered. This means that the act of inviting someone—anyone—into their world is an act of great risk. To try and fix or rationalize or wash away their pain only deepens their terror.

Instead, the most powerful thing you can do is acknowledge. Literally say the words:

I acknowledge your pain. I am here with you.

Note that I said with you, not for you. For implies that you’re going to do something. That is not for you to enact. But to stand with your loved one, to suffer with them, to listen to them, to do everything but something is incredibly powerful.

There is no greater act than acknowledgment. And acknowledgment requires no training, no special skills, no expertise. It only requires the willingness to be present with a wounded soul, and to stay present, as long as is necessary.

Be there. Only be there. Do not leave when you feel uncomfortable or when you feel like you’re not doing anything. In fact, it is when you feel uncomfortable and like you’re not doing anything that you must stay.

Because it is in those places—in the shadows of horror we rarely allow ourselves to enter—where the beginnings of healing are found. This healing is found when we have others who are willing to enter that space alongside us. Every grieving person on earth needs these people.

Thus I beg you, I plead with you, to be one of these people.

You are more needed than you will ever know.

And when you find yourself in need of those people, find them. I guarantee they are there.

Everyone else can go.

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Life Architecture- How to Build a Life.

Life Architecture- How to Build a Life.

Sometimes I get a bit lost. Days bleed into each other, energy is scarce, I forget what is really important for my growth, caught up in responsibilities and admin. And then, along comes this little fragment of consciousness, dressed up like a leprechaun, with a cheeky, wise glint in his eye and he says (in a caricatured Irish accent) ” Jimmy my lad, what the fewk are ya up to?! What are you tryin’ to do with this precious life of yours? It’s then that I stop and do an ‘audit’ of my life.
One of the great teachers I have found when doing a ‘life audit’ is James Hollis…he has the extraordinary ability to make the work of Carl Jung meaningfully applicable to everyday life -and this genius is apparent in Creating a Life: Finding your Individual Path.

The book takes you on a journey into living an examined life, a journey towards consciousness. But Hollis warns this journey will not solve all your problems or heal your pain, it will simply make your life more interesting to you. And who doesn’t want to feel that they are really living; that life is an exciting, meaningful journey as opposed to a boring sequence of mishaps and misadventures?

The book is divided into three parts and has twenty-eight short chapters.
Part one of the book, has six chapters which take you on a journey of self discovery, providing a new frame of reference through which to look at your personal history, understand your life choices, examine your core complexes, uncover your wounding. The chapters move through the necessity of finding a personal myth, understanding your core complexes, the necessary fictions that make up your life and the problem of spiritual authority. And in each chapter, Hollis gently guides the journey by providing literary examples and insightful, thought provoking questions:
What is urgent in our lives?
What owns us?
What do we seek to transcend?
What myth are we living?
Are we living out our parent’s unlived lives, compensating for their fears?
Are we in thrall to the values of the herd, which may offend the soul but keeps one complaint company?
What kind of play has our life been, in service too what, or to whom?
Do we like what we see, if we look honestly, and whose fault is it then?

By taking your time and savouring what Hollis has to offer, you arrive at the end of the first part of the book with a new consciousness, an awareness of how your wounding is living in the world, a sense of where you are stuck.

Part two of the book is divided into twenty chapters which explore the attitudes and practices necessary for the second half of life. These chapters begin with Jung’s concept of individuation and the necessity of loving one’s fate.
The recognition that it is here, in this time, in this place that you are called to live your life, not the life envisioned by your ego or your parents or by societal expectations but your life!

Jung asserted that the greatest burden a child must carry is the unlived lives of their parents and in the following chapter Redeeming Ancestors, Hollis explores four ways in which you can heal the family history that is operating autonomously in you.

Crisis come at critical points in a life and Hollis includes a chapter on crises and their meaning in your life, which inevitably leads to the need for mentors, teachers, gurus and sages who can provide you with all the answers. But Hollis asserts, nobody can find your path but you, nobody knows more about your history, your struggles, your challenges than you. In this chapter Hollis explores Jung’s concept of the Self, the carrier of your soul and your very own inner guru and it is through connection with the Self that you can find meaning, purpose and a general sense of the rightness of your life. Hollis description of the Self fires the imaginations and creates a longing for this connection.

The following chapters explore the necessity of accepting your failings and limitations, the necessary mess of things, leaving ambition behind and the necessity of getting over your wounds by attending to your soul.

In the chapter on The Complexity of Relationships, Hollis illustrates how relationships provide mirrors through which you encounter yourself, your patterns. your wounding. It is through encounters with others that you meet your core perceptions. Perceptions formed in childhood about how valuable you are, how trustworthy other people are and how the world will meet you. And it is through this meeting with the other, this forced confrontation with yourself, that growth occurs.

Part three of the book is concludes with two chapters, which explore the necessity of feeling grateful for the journey of life and importance of images, of the imagination in creating your life.
For anyone seeking greater consciousness, for anyone wanting to live an examined life, this book provides a rich resource of reflections, a guiding compass with which to navigate the journey of life. Through the many poems and excerpts from the works of many modern writers, including John Fowles, Rilke, D.H. Lawrence, Thoreau, Pascal and Kierkegaard you get a feeling that your journey is undertaken in good company and you are not alone.

I find myself returning to this book time and time again and with each reading I find myself excited, interested in my journey, in the life I am creating. I discover new trails I want to explore. I discover new ways of getting myself unstuck and moving forward. I find myself creating my life, finding my individual path.
If however, you are looking for a how to manual or a set of guidelines to help you create a life or find your individual path, this book will leave you unfulfilled. It is not a new age cure all. Hollis ask more questions than he answers and the questions he does ask need a lifetime of deep reflection to answer. And yet, if your journey is to be truly individual, you must find your own path, you must create your own life.

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In Praise of Imperfections.

In Praise of Imperfections.

No longer do I fantasize about bikini clad, airbrushed women with shiny hair and gleaming teeth…
Give me a woman with honest hips and an open heart.

Gone are the days of envying rich men with expensive colognes and practiced smiles,
Too often I see beneath their Emporer’s clothes to the aching depths beneath.

No longer do I pimp and preen like a young cock of yore,
Now rather, I prefer to peer with loving curiousity at the cracks we all try to conceal.

I smile as I stand in the shopping queue, reading the covers of glossy magazines that promise multiple orgasms and eternal youth, we buy their lies in a vain attempt to nurse our inadequacies, creating chronic disappointment with our unique reflections.

As I grow up, I begin to understand and welcome that I am more flawed and human than I ever imagined,
I am more than the size of my penis, or how much money I have, or the make of the car I drive.

I am becoming more comfortable with my skinny calves and my slightly skew teeth, more accepting of not being the smartest, nor the most witty at a party.

I can handle rejection and heartbreak with more wisdom, although it still hurts,
I can mourn my losses with more courage and begin to own my shit, but I don’t have to like it. I’ll practise letting go of guilt
And forgiving myself…and others.

I am no longer addicted to comfort or to my own importance, I can handle the fact that I’ll never be a rock star, or painfully hip.

I’ll slurp my soup and risk a little fart while no one’s around.

My dance moves are still lame, but I kinda like them, they remind me of a time where I didn’t take it all too seriously and my biggest concern was whether the girl wearing the red blouse would think I was cool.

Now I am more interested in weaving words on a page, or in learning the names of trees and how to cook, than in trying to impress an other with someone who is not my imperfect self.

We are who we are, for better or worse and more often than not, that’s more than enough.

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Brain Candy
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Brain Candy

Today’s selection — from The Organized Mind by Daniel J. Levitin. The human brain consumes more energy than any other part of the body…

“The entire brain weighs three pounds (1.4 kg) and so is only a small percentage of an adult’s total body weight, typically 2%. But it consumes 20% of all the energy the body uses. Why? The perhaps oversimplified answer is that time is energy.

“Neural communication is very rapid — it has to be — reaching speeds of over 300 miles per hour and with neurons communicating with one another hundreds of times per second. The voltage output of a single resting neuron is 70 millivolts, about the same as the line output of an iPod. If you could hook up a neuron to a pair of earbuds, you could actually hear its rhythmic output as a series of clicks. …

“Neurochemicals that control communication between neurons are manufactured in the brain itself. These include some relatively well-known ones such as serotonin, dopamine, oxytocin, and epinephrine, as well as acetylcholine, GABA, glutamate, and endocannabinoids. Chemicals are released in very specific locations and they act on specific synapses to change the flow of information in the brain. Manufacturing these chemicals, and dispersing them to regulate and modulate brain activity, requires energy — neurons are living cells with a metabolism, and they get that energy from glucose. No other tissue in the body relies solely on glucose for energy except the testes. (This is why men occasionally experience a battle for resources between their brains and their glands.)

“A number of studies have shown that eating or drinking glucose improves performance on mentally demanding tasks. For example, experimental participants are given a difficult problem to solve, and half of them are given a sugary treat and half of them are not. The ones who get the sugary treat perform better and more quickly because they are supplying the body with glucose that goes right to the brain to help feed the neural circuits that are doing the problem solving. This doesn’t mean you should rush out and buy armloads of candy — for one thing, the brain can draw on vast reserves of glucose already held in the body when it needs them. For another, chronic ingestion of sugars — these experiments looked only at short-term ingestion — can damage other systems and lead to diabetes and sugar crash, the sudden exhaustion that many people feel later when the sugar high wears off.

“But regardless of where it comes from, the brain burns glucose, as a car burns gasoline, to fuel mental operations. Just how much energy does the brain use? In an hour of relaxing or daydreaming, it uses eleven calories or fifteen watts — about the same as one of those new energy-efficient light-bulbs. Using the central executive for reading for an hour takes about forty-two calories. Sitting in class, by comparison, takes sixty-five calories — not from fidgeting in your seat (that’s not factored in) but from the additional mental energy of absorbing new information. Most brain energy is used in synaptic transmission, that is, in connecting neurons to one another and, in turn, connecting thoughts and ideas to one another.”

The Organized Mind: Thinking Straight in the Age of Information Overload

Author: Daniel J. Levitin
Publisher: Dutton a division of Penguin Group
Copyright 2014 by Daniel J. Levitin

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