‘Aha’ moments come from some pretty surprising places. One expects it when listening to an enlightened teacher or a thought leader. One should also expect it from comedians, who observe and comment on the human condition.
One ‘aha!’ moment for me was thanks to Scots comedian Billy Connelly. If you are not familiar with him, he is quite a character – hoarse, gravelly voice, wild white hair flying around his head, a goatee, infectious laugh, grandiose gestures – an exuberant man, whose deepest thought, one would imagine, would be how to make a joke out of a dismal curry takeout. One would be wrong.
Connelly, by all accounts, had a truly dreadful childhood. But when interviewer George Stromboulopoulos made the comment that his history was the kind of thing that would crush most people, Connelly replied, “But it doesn’t crush most people – you only hear the crushing stories!” AHA!
There are examples of good all around us to counteract the hellish situations in which people find themselves. Connolly learned what ‘normal’ was by spending a lot of time in the homes of his friends, homes where the parents showed caring and respect for their kids and actually joked with them.
In North America, the stats claim that between 30-50% of all young people are abused or molested. If you include emotional abuse and/or bullying, that would be virtually 100%. Let’s be honest: is there anyone who has ever attended school who has not had at least one of ‘those’ teachers? More than half of North American children have had a long-term chronic illness at some point; 25% are chronically ill at any given time. Anywhere from 30-50% of women are victims of domestic violence. In Canada (2009), reported rapes are 1.5 per 1o0,000 persons; in the US, 25.6 per 100,000 population. Estimates are that 75-90% of rapes are never even reported. Life is messy – and the trauma often gets ‘stuck’ in our energy and leads to chronic illnesses.
Thanks in part to Oprah and Jerry Springer, it has become fashionable to be an emotional train-wreck if there has been any kind of challenge in one’s life. We’re told that trauma changes who we are. We’re told that the wounds go deep, that we must be damaged and fragile. We’re told that it takes an enormous amount of will and commitment to ‘the process’ to heal, to forgive and to move on. We are told that we are helpless victims, that the guests on their shows who have managed to cope are spiritual giants and heroes/heroines. Since few people tend to think of themselves in those terms, these accepted beliefs are remarkably disempowering to the average person. What would change for you if it turned out that it was all just a ploy to keep the ratings up? To make money?
What would happen if none of what we’ve been told is true?
Think about this: everyone has their mountain to climb, but the vast majority of people are NOT emotional train wrecks – and never were. They found effective ways of dealing with the unavoidable challenges of life and continued to live their lives with joy and abundance – and so can you. Not just ‘good enough’, but happy, healthy, well-adjusted and successful.
Shifting the disempowering mindset we’ve been exposed to doesn’t come naturally at first, so here is a simple, but effective, exercise to help you on your way. It is from the wonderful book, ‘Ageing to Sage-ing’ by Rabbi Schacter-Sholomi:
“… we each make a list of whom we would invite to a “Testimonial Dinner for the Severe Teachers,” people from our past who have wronged us in some way. On the list, we describe not only the injustice that was done to us but also the unexpected good that came from the other person’s actions.” This alone is very powerful – but what if you also included situations, not just people, on that invitation list? What if you included your illness, the economy, the weather? What if you included God? What would change in your life if you looked for – and found – the blessings of the Severe Teachers? We find what we look for; can you find the blessing in the darkness? Are you looking for it?