You may have heard that experience is the best teacher, but like any class there are always students who learn very little.
Just having an experience doesn’t guarantee the quality or quantity of learning that may be obtained. Aldous Huxley once said, “Experience is what happens to you, it is what you do with what has happened that matters.” In therapy, my goal is to help clients maximize the learning that may be gained from an event to better equip them to deal with future life events. So if experience is the best teacher, then the more you experience, the more you are capable of learning. Therefore, even a tragic loss may offer you a way to grow and develop from the difficulties by learning new perceptions and possibilities.
Often in life you have to confront monsters, they may be people, circumstances or events. They may be elements of your past that haunt you or they maybe circumstances that you perceive to be beyond your control. How you manage these monsters determines how forceful they are. The story below offers an example of how much of the sorrows in life are truly rooted in your interpretation of them.
There was once a woman who set out to slay all the monsters in the world. This quest took her on a dangerous journey. she encountered many challenges and hazards along the way, each testing her strength and enhancing her capabilities. She hadn’t traveled long before she began chasing the monster of hunger. She approached him and declared, “you have been causing famine and suffering, prepare to die.” When she cornered him and was about to put him to death the monster said “I acknowledge I bring discomfort but I also bring benefits as well, there would be no drive to find food and survive without me, instead of destroying me, look at the ways I might be useful. I drive people to find food and survive. Can you see that I help people healthy, motivated and happy.” The woman saw the truth in what this monster said and the monster was sparred.
Then she tracked down the monster of suffering and said “no one wants to suffer, you are worthless and prepare to die.” But he too pleaded for his life saying “I know you think I cause needless pain and sorrow. You think the world would be better off without me. Yet because of me people learn and develop. Remember as a child when you put your hand too close to a flame and experienced the pain of the heat? Your suffering was brief, but you learned from the experience. This learning has protected you, this brief suffering may have helped to save your life.” The woman then realized another truth. That through pain we learn to avoid pain and grow from experience. People grow from pain. They gain appreciation from suffering. Through pain we learn to appreciate pleasure. Through suffering we learn to value happiness. So perhaps even suffering has its place if we learn how to benefit from it.
So she learned that its not so much what on object is, but rather how we see or label it that makes the difference. Experiences of the past alter what we do in the present. We can never tell how the unexpected, frustrating events lead to unanticipated beautiful new experiences. Losses, disappointment, frustration will happen, what matters is how we see them. If you experience a loss you don’t have to lose the experience