Note from Kate
I make a point of paying attention to anyone who appears graceful under fire. There is so much to learn from people who are able to stay positive in difficult situations. I’m not talking about people who use positive thinking as a way to skirt or deny difficulty. I’m talking about people who are able to deeply accept the reality of a difficult situation and make the choice to move in the most positive direction available.
This week I offer a story from my life that gave me serious practice in accepting the reality of a difficult situation and remaining positive in the face of it.
Staying Positive in the Harder Times
One year ago, a former client decided that she did not want to pay after taking my whole program and even writing a positive testimonial. She filed a complaint against me with the licensing board saying that I had coerced her into taking the program.
This was a fantastic act of vengeance. The licensing board does not require those who file a complaint to submit proof of misconduct or payment for the investigation. Once filed, the complaint must be investigated. The person being investigated – also known as the licensee – must then prove their innocence through excessive documentation and often with expensive legal support. Further, the licensee cannot seek repayment because it can be interpreted as retaliation.
A couple weeks ago, the board dismissed the claim. Their investigation proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that the complaint was an act of a desperate person trying not to pay. I’ve finally completed the extensive paperwork that I needed to file to end this investigation and it has made me wonder:
What was it that helped me make it though this challenging experience with relative ease?
It’s one thing to be positive when everything is going OK. It’s another thing to keep a positive attitude when the going gets tough.
To be honest, when this complaint was first filed I panicked. I felt like my survival was put in jeopardy. I watched my mind race to find a solution. I got angry. I felt like a victim. I felt guilty. I wanted to hide. I went right into the heart of negativity. My response was so extreme that when I took a step back and observed myself I realized – it’s REALLY unhealthy to feel like this. I needed to do something. So I asked myself: Kate, what do you really know?
What I know is that it’s not about what happens in life – it’s about how you deal with it. And, how you deal with it makes a huge impact on the outcome.
Put It in Perspective
I remember reading this book right before I had my son called “How to Raise Capable People.” In the book, the author said that if no real negative outcome came out of a child’s request, then you should let them do it. So, for example, if your child wants to go outside without a coat, let them. If they eventually get cold, they’ll put a coat on. This had a profound impact on me. I started looking at situations in my life to see whether a situation truly had a negative impact or if I imagined that the impact would be negative.
When my former client filed a complaint against me, I immediately perceived that my livelihood was threatened. I thought about whether or not this was true and it turns out that it wasn’t. I had held onto my license for the benefit of a couple clients. Yet, in reality all of my work was outside the medical model. Even if I was found guilty, the licensing board’s decision would not directly effect my business. Once I put the situation in perspective, I was able to remove a layer of stress and begin to respond proactively.
But, what if this hadn’t been the case. What if the outcome of the investigation had a really horrible impact on some aspect of my life? In this case, I would want an accurate view of the potential consequences so that I could explore what I could do to limit the negative impact. I could even re-frame my thinking to see the positive things that might result from this forced change of direction.
When navigating a difficult situation, the most important thing is to stay in the clearest and truest part of yourself. At its best, personal development work helps you tune into and connect with a deeper part of yourself. In this deeper part, you see things for what they truly are. When we are connected to this part of ourselves we know that even if things are difficult now, everything will ultimately be OK. We’re able to remember that things that look bad in one light, might actually look good in another light.
This clarity is important because it helps us make the best possible choice in a difficult situation and not react out of fear. When we stay with our clarity, our perspective broadens. In fact, we see our possibilities for solution expand rather than contract.
Practice Compassion and Forgiveness
While I dealt with this issue throughout this year, I went through times where I was angry. However, I knew that indulging my desire to blame would not serve me. In fact, every moment that I spent angry or blaming others kept me embroiled in a situation that was the opposite of what I wanted to create in my life.
Staying positive does a great deal to stop the cycle of harm. The bottom line is that hurt people do hurtful things. We all harbor stories about how other people have wronged us. Yet, a glimpse from their perspective might make their actions more understandable. We can hold onto our stories to insure that we feel in the right. Or we can let go of our stories and offer compassion and forgiveness for those who have wronged us. Ultimately, the latter creates a much happier and more positive life.