We’ve all likely heard of or spoken the phrase “the calm before the storm.” But have you ever wondered if we’ve got this phrase the opposite way? What if the calm can come after the storm sometimes? ;)
This week, I’m talking to anyone who feels or has ever felt like their life is in some kind of rough storm. There can be so many reasons that you might feel this way. These are just some common possible reasons.
You may be in a storm if:
(1) Something major has happened in your life, possibly one or more of the following, which may trigger a grief process: You’ve lost one or more loved ones. You’ve lost or changed a job. You’ve moved to a new location. You’ve become a parent. Your grown children have moved out of your house. You or someone you love is dealing with a health concern. You’re going through some big changes in your relationships with others. You’re starting to view yourself or your world differently than you may have in the past. These different ways of viewing yourself or your world can include physical, emotional, mental, or spiritual ways.
(2) Something major has not happened in your life, yet it almost feels too routine. You are struggling with the routine. Life doesn’t feel fulfilling to you in the same ways as it had previously, but you’re not sure what to make of that feeling. If you start to think about changing one or more things in your life, maybe you feel scared, cynical, or apathetic about doing so.
(3) One or more of your closest relationships involves a lot of drama, conflict, or discord. You don’t feel lifted up or fulfilled by your closest relationships. Maybe you feel guilty because of this. Maybe you feel conflicted, like part of you is upset by all the discord, but another part of you doesn’t want to feel that you’re betraying or abandoning these people if you were to leave.
(4) You find yourself often focusing on different events in the world or in your life that make you angry, sad, upset, scared, or super stressed. While these feelings are definitely normal and healthy for us to move through, they can turn unhealthy if they stick around within us for long periods of time. Sometimes it may feel easier for us to focus greatly on other events, maybe upsetting political or world events, that will naturally cause us to have these hard feelings. If we do this, it may be a clue that these feelings within us need to get out, and that they are inside us for other reasons than only what is going on in the world.
(5) You've tried something brand new in your life, and it didn't quite go as you had expected. You feel frustrated or massively let down because you took a huge risk (or more), stepped out of your comfort zone, and things just aren't working out as you had hoped they would.
So what happens when we are in the middle of a storm? How can we work our way out of it? And why is it so important to go through the storm instead of trying to avoid it altogether?
When we are in a storm, often our most basic instincts kick in. These very primal instincts involve concepts such as fight, flight, or freeze. Over thousands of years and many generations, we’ve learned these instincts in order to survive. And that’s why, when we’re in the thick of things, they’re the go-to instincts we often turn to first.
These days, our most primal instincts may not involve the need to run from a wild, hungry animal. However, we still go through storms and challenging times in our lives, and we’ve seemingly found other ways to act out our most basic instincts in this modern world. Here are some of the ways we may do so:
Fight: We may literally fight. We (as a collective “we,” such as nations or groups of people) may go to war. We may physically try to hurt or harm others. We may anonymously or directly say cruel, unkind, or untrue things to others. We may turn into gossips or Internet trolls, still fighting, but in a less direct way. We may create or attract relationships where a lot of drama and conflict are involved, to give us something to “fight” emotionally. Or we may keep all of our fighting, hurting, burning energy inside, hidden outwardly from others, and actually be fighting within ourselves. Sometimes we may not even realize that we’re doing so. And in general, if we keep it inside long enough, it is bound to seep out in other ways in our lives.
Flight: We can find so many ways to show flight. We may run away from our lives in many ways. Most of these ways can often be through denying, avoiding, or numbing our deepest feelings. We may deny our deepest feelings, thinking we’re not strong enough to face them. We may avoid facing them, sometimes for much of our lives. And we may find many ways to numb or to run, through addictions, through procrastination, and through any other thing that we think may give us a quick fix. In reality, though, the quick fix is just that. Once we get a fix, we’re still left with feelings we may not have worked through.
Freeze: We may simply become paralyzed in the midst of a storm. We may not know what to do, what to feel, or where to even start so that we can get through this storm. So we may do nothing. We may become stuck in sadness, anxiety, or on auto-pilot, going through our everyday motions without much thought, not really being able to process the challenges of the storm we’re in.
So what happens if we realize that we’re acting or that we want to act from our primal instincts during our storm, and we want to try a different approach?
The great thing is that we can do just that. And, as with so many areas of my life, I’ve personally found that one of the best ways to begin to move out of my primal instincts is to get quiet and to ask a lot of questions.
Many of these kinds of questions may be ones that a lot of us shy away from. Why? Because we can sense even as we ask them that our answers may provide us with a lot of truth. And truth isn’t always easy to accept.
But the alternative is continuing to act from our primal instincts, which in many cases, proves to be a lot less healthy for us and maybe even for those around us. So if we really want to move out of these instincts, we can gather up all of that amazing courage that really does exist deep in our hearts. And we can start asking questions.
These are just some of the questions I’ve asked myself during different storms in my life:
Why am I acting this way? What am I actually feeling? Why am I feeling this way?
Have I felt this way before? If so, when or where? If not, are there others who have felt like I’m feeling now? How did they handle a similar situation?
Has a similar situation occurred in my life before? If so, am I repeating a pattern here? What can I learn from this pattern? Why is it happening in my life? What is it trying to teach me about myself or how I relate to others? Is this a pattern that I’m tired of repeating and that I can allow myself to let go of? Is this a pattern I need more resources in order to better understand it?
How can I bring the most loving approach to this situation? How can I honor myself and anyone else who may be involved?
If I realized I’ve made a mistake, how best can I make amends in a way that will honor both myself and others?
If I were to think of an ideal ending to this situation, what would it be?
If that ideal ending involves another person changing, can I accept that this may or may not happen as I hope, and that I may need to release that ending and maybe even that relationship in my heart so that I can keep growing?
How can I focus on really loving myself through this time? What are my own needs? What are my own desires? What do I really want?
As you may be gathering here, there is an infinite amount of questions that you can ask yourself in these stormy situations. The biggest point here is that you can allow yourself to start asking them, whatever those questions may be.
Just see what kinds of questions come into your mind as you think about this storm you may feel you’re in. Think about these questions, and then consider their answers. Be willing to acknowledge how much courage you really do have, and be willing to honestly hear the answers.
Once you ask questions of yourself and your situation in these ways, you do get answers. And with those answers, you have a starting place. Those answers may make you feel any number of ways, but no matter what, you can give yourself the gift of kindness and compassion along the way.
No matter what, because you are a fellow human, you’ve done the best you could with whatever storms you’ve been in. And now is another chance for you to grow even more and to be able to make choices with even more of your heart’s own inherent wisdom.
When the answers settle some, you can start to come to greater acceptance of whatever those answers are and whatever they may be trying to teach you. And you can start to gather all of that wonderful capability you now have, since you’ve asked yourself these kinds of questions. Now you have so much more capability to take your answers, learn from them, and make choices.
You can choose to act or not to act. You can choose to feel more fully and deeply. You can choose so much more in your life—more than you may have ever thought you could—because you’ve now found answers to your own questions.
This is where the calm can come. It can come after the storm. It can come after you’ve been faced with challenges and possibly difficulties. It can come because you’ve taken the time to get quiet, be honest with yourself, and open to anything you may be able to learn from these experiences. It can come because you’ve gone through the storm. You haven’t just acted out your primal instincts. You’ve actually decided to face the storm. And you actually decided to walk through it.
In my experience, the calm after a storm can only come once we’ve walked through it. We may think we are getting by if we stay within our primal instincts, but we’ll be doing just that—just getting by, if we’re lucky. It is only when we gather up all of that wonderful courage within our hearts and walk through our storm that we get to experience the calm that can come afterwards. And that calm may include a rainbow more beautiful than we ever could have dreamed.
Maybe that rainbow is overlooking a beautiful waterfall. Maybe the fresh drops of rain on the leaves of the tall trees next to us are glistening in the sunlight. And maybe the earth below our feet—and within our hearts—has been nurtured, has been watered by this storm, so that we can plant new seeds that will bear great fruit in the best of timing.
Maybe that can be the reward we get from going through our storm. Or maybe it can be even greater than we could ever currently imagine.
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Are you curious to explore parts of your own life’s journey in a deeper way? I’ve written a great book that may be a resource for you to do just that. Check it out here: http://www.francinebrocious.com/all-about-me-book/
Also, social scientist extraordinaire Brené Brown has written another New York Times bestselling book called "Rising Strong," which I highly recommend. It's all about how to get back up after we've fallen in life. If you're interested, you can check it out here:
No matter what, always remember this: You are deserving, you are worthy, and you are good enough. Keep being you, keep shining, and keep growing!
With great love,