Dr Bev Smallwood

Articles Library: Coping

Life Lessons From the Oyster And the Pearl

Today I decided to complete my outfit with my pearl necklace. I never wear pearls without thinking of their unique origins. And when I ponder how pearls are formed, I can’t help observing the similarities between our lives and the uncomfortable yet beautiful process of pearl formation.

Here’s what happens. Enter the oyster, stage left. For whatever reason, the oyster shell sometimes gets pierced and a grain of sand – a foreign substance that doesn’t belong there – slips inside. Like the antibodies in our own immune systems that rush to the scene when bacteria invade the body, all of the resources of the tiny, sensitive oyster rush to the spot where the foreign body is irritating the oyster.

The oyster’s body releases healing fluids to soothe the pain caused by the irritant. These healing fluids would have simply remained dormant if this problem had not occurred. Over time, these fluids cover the irritant and the wound is healed. The result of this process over time? A pearl.

Adversity is a fact of our human lives. It sneaks in uninvited and unwelcome, bringing with it things that were never in our plans, happenings that just weren’t supposed to be there. Some experiences are mere irritants; others are major catastrophes that change the entire course of our lives.

The way we choose to heal from our wounds will have everything to do with how “beautiful” we are when it’s over. Some never heal because they allow bitterness to corrupt their spirits and rob them of the possibility of building a happy future. Others stay wounded because they refuse to acknowledge they have a problem, carrying the hurt all alone and not taking advantage of people who are willing and able to help. Still others get stuck in the endless pursuit of “justice” as they define it.

There is a better way.

People who thrive despite setbacks in life are those who can courageously deal with them and determine to move ahead, no matter what. They apply at least five strategies to help them recover and overcome what life throws at them.

1. They recognize that adversity is normal. Instead of asking, “Why me?”, a better question is “Why not me?” After all, we each live in an imperfect world in which “stuff happens” and in which other people are free to make choices that affect us. “In this world, you will have tribulations…”

2. They aren’t afraid of their own emotions, but they choose not to be forever controlled by their feelings. Ignoring the feelings of grief and pain send those “underground”, only to resurface when some similar event triggers the memory. Neither do healthy survivors allow their negative emotions to rule their lives on and on. They find the balance. They acknowledge, feel, and express their pain, but then they do the things that allow them to move on. They don’t take their pain out on others, catching themselves in an endless cycle of anger and attempted revenge.

3. They focus on what they do have to work with, not what they don’t. Alexander Graham Bell once said, “Sometimes we spend so much time looking longingly at the door that has closed for us that we fail to see the one that has opened.” Yes, you should mourn losses…but then, as quickly as possible, assess what you do have. Look creatively at how you can use your existing resources to build quality back into your life.

4. They use the skills of letting go of the unworkable, the unchangeable, and the uncontrollable. The famous Serenity Prayer sums up this principle: “God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”

5. They maintain an internal faith and hope that they will heal and will come out on the other side. Even after you have given up hope on a particular situation (which sometimes is realistic and advisable), never give up your faith that you can have a good life ahead. You can, with God’s strength and your good choices.

Like the pearl, you can radiate the beauty that comes from the healing process.

Dr. Bev Smallwood is a psychologist and professional speaker who is the author of “This Wasn’t Supposed to Happen to Me.” Visit her website, www.DrBevSmallwood.com; or contact Bev at 601.264.0890 or by email, Bev@DrBevSmallwood.com. Also connect with Bev on Twitter, Facebook, Linkedin, and her blogs, Shrink Rap and New Morning Devotionals.

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