Surviving the Dark

We’ve all had tough times of profound darkness. It could be when a relationship that you cared about ended or nothing going right with your job. It is a turbulent time with days filled with uncertainty, pain and loneliness. There have been 2 such dark phases in my life and today, I can honestly say that I’m grateful for having experienced this period of darkness.

I realized that my grueling and painful journey brought me to a place of clarity and happiness. In my darkest hour, I found myself and my purpose.

And most importantly, this place of confusion and darkness helped me understand and appreciate the light.

Hope is being able to see that there is light despite all of the darkness.

Desmond Tutu

How do we navigate these dark phases? Here are some ways that helped me.

1. Get to know yourself better and be open to internal work.
Until we confront a real life-crushing event, we tend to preoccupy ourselves with external circumstances and changes. Difficult life circumstances give us opportunities to explore our inner lives and do the internal work necessary for us to rise above our challenges. Now is the time for self-understanding and self-awareness.

2. Become aware of what doesn’t work.
When you hit a dark place, you receive a gift: you realize what doesn’t work. You have more insight into yourself than you did before.

What went wrong in your relationship? What was your part in its breakup? What kind of partner is wrong for you? How do you break the cycle of seeking the wrong person as your partner?

What did you hate about the career you left? Which parts of the job were toxic? Which skills did you master and which skills did you want to continue working on? What kind of work do you find fulfilling?

Understanding what doesn’t work is as insightful as knowing what does work. Knowing the dark is critical to appreciating the light

When you see the futility and hopelessness of a particular path or situation, your mind can create a new path and life.

3. One step at a time.
Every day of a personal crisis, breakup or serious life change will be a tough one. If you think about the enormity of the situation, you’ll feel paralyzed and want to stay in bed.

What is one small step you can take today?

How can you move your life in a positive direction in the smallest of ways?

4. Never give up on yourself.
You’re in a tough spot but you’ve been in similar places before. You’ve gotten through rough patches and you can do it again.

Sure, your current circumstance may be more challenging than those you faced in the past, but you’ve built up your adversity muscle to deal with changes and setbacks. And you’ve done it again and again. You’re a known and proven problem-solver, solution-finder and fighter.

You made it this far, even with the scars and bruises that past troubles inflicted on you. You yourself are the best proof that you’ve done it before and can do it again.

5. Appreciate the dark.
During your most difficult hour, it’s hard to sit back and exercise any amount of gratefulness. Your heart’s throbbing, your head’s crammed with worries and you don’t know yourself anymore. Why would you ever be grateful for this?

You can learn to appreciate the situation because you are discovering the tools you’ll need to navigate in the dark. If you can keep walking toward the light, you’ll develop qualities that will help you resist life’s challenges.

When you walk in the dark, you develop the qualities of persistence, patience, discovery and navigation. Sure, you won’t know where you are, but you’ll start getting a better sense of the darkness and will eventually navigate your way around.

Your greatest gift in the dark is your newfound abilities to embrace change, persist and keep going. These skills you’ll have with you for the rest of your life.

6. The dawn is near
Yes, the current situation is icky but it can’t stay this way for long. I’ve found that when a person is at rock bottom, things can’t get worse. They can only improve. If you’re having the worst week or month of your life, be prepared for a positive change.

Life is like the seasons, after all. You can’t remain stuck in winter forever. Your situation will change, just like the seasons change.

You’ll find a way to move on, discover the solution or get the break you’ve been waiting for.

Don’t bask in life’s lows and dark places when light is just around the corner.

Stay hopeful for a brighter tomorrow. Stay patient if things take a little longer than expected.

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