November 16, 2016
What Happens When Prevention Doesn’t Work?
Recently, I have discovered a new reality when working with my clients, and even in my own recovery. Many of us expend 99% of our energy trying to prevent bad things from happening. We create plans an strategies in attempt to understand a situation and see the pieces and people involved, and hopefully make the best decision possible to create our desired income. This is how most of us live out lives. Don’t get me wrong, prevention is a wonderful and important part of life. But what I’ve noticed lately is how much time we spend just on prevention. Often all of our energy is expended trying to prevent bad things from happening. But what happens when something bad does happen?
Throughout my addiction I tried to juggle life, fervently trying to keep my addiction from influencing other areas of my life. I spent so much time and energy keeping my addiction away from everything else, I never contemplated what would happen when it did. I didn’t realize that my addiction was going to spread into the rest of my life no matter how compartmentalized I tried to keep it. No matter how much effort I dedicated to keeping my life separate, it always seemed to fall apart. I would forget things, I was late to appointments, someone noticed my odd behavior, and more examples. Looking back on my addiction, I’m amazed at how smart I thought I was, craftily hiding my true self from others. All my energy revolved around preventing something bad from happening, and when it finally did happen, I didn’t know how to handle it.
Many of my clients follow this similar pattern. But as I look at all of us, I don’t think this is an addiction problem, but a human problem. As a whole, humanity lives in a state of fear. We are afraid of being hurt, rebuked, punished, consequences, etc. and we hardly ever prepare for when it will happen. Life is difficult and storms out of our control will come.We will face difficulties, hurts, pains, and rejection. When we spend all of efforts trying to prevent the inevitable from happening, we are surprised when it does and react poorly most of the time.
What would happen if we shifted some of our energy from preventing bad things from happenings, to learning how to handle them when they do? No matter how hard we seek out prevention, outside circumstances will influence us. It’s a fact of life. We can’t control everything. When one of these undesirable things occurs, if we have worked on how to respond well, not out of anger or fear but acceptance and flexibility, how differently would this feel? How could this change your daily life? Maybe rather than being upset the unwanted event occurred, you enter into the situation calmly with a clear head.
Learning to handle the curveballs life throws at you is a powerful perspective to have in life. We can influence many parts of our lives, but there will always be some that we can’t. How we react to these situations will strongly dictate the unfolding events. How do you handle the surprise difficulties in your life? How could you respond to them better? What steps can you take today to help your reactions to the unexpected?