Dr Ruth Briant-Jones
From the dark places, new shoots grow
I recently took some time out to reflect on some of the events that have happened in my life, to think about how they've shaped me. At the time, rejection, failure, terrifying situations, let downs, have all been difficult and in some cases, seemingly impossible, to bear. They have each carried with them their own challenges and forced in me some deep personal introspection. Some of the wounds from these events have taken years to heal, and some are still yet a work in progress. But without a doubt, each of those events has changed me and in doing so, has changed the course of my life.
Some of these events have been innocuous and yet I have carried them for decades: a disparaging comment from a stranger that I have let cripple my confidence and shape how I form relationships; an insignificant failure that I have replayed again and again and again to remind myself of my inadequacy when I'm fuelling my self-loathing. Others have been more obvious: a deployment to Afghanistan; a relationship break-up; rejection from a family member. The shapes I have formed from these have been more complex and nuanced, but regardless of the size of the event, each of these has made of me something - sometimes positive and sometimes negative. Looking back, I wonder how different things could have been had I been able to take the other road, to choose the positive option - because despite how it feels in these dark places, there is always a positive option. Of course, when you're in it, you don't necessarily know which option that is, and sometimes, even with the benefit of hindsight, you'll never know the answer to that. Throughout the course of my history, I have made both good and bad decisions. I believe I've made the very best decisions more latterly, at a point in my life where I think I have begun to know myself better, and at a point where I have understood where my priorities really lie - where I have made a decision based on my compass and no one else's.
It's a different process, seeing friends, clients, or colleagues go through their own tough times. You nearly always have the advantage of detachment (depending on how wrapped you are in their lives - this isn't always the case). This is positive in that you can have a better idea of what might help that person, how they can help themselves - but it can also be incredibly frustrating seeing someone making decisions that don't seem right for them. Continuing my reflection on situations that shape us, I thought about a good friend who faced her own darkness. After a devastating life event she hit self-destruct, despite mine and others' best efforts to 'save' her, making negative and sabotaging decisions day after day until she had destroyed much of the life she had built. It was agonising to watch, but it became clear that ultimately, the only person who could choose which fork to take was her - the person at the fork in the road. But, choosing the 'wrong' fork isn't the end of the story. It is never the end of the story, and there is always another decision, another change - perhaps even a metamorphosis - to be made. Despite the damage she had wrought on herself, my friend eventually found enough space to listen to the voices around her, including her own. She found a positive decision and took it, and gradually, she built herself again. Not despite, but because of the terrible darkness she had been in, a great change happened. She grew from those experiences, stronger, wiser, and more in tune with who she is. When we talk about those times, a shadow flits across her face only momentarily; she paid a heavy price for the growth she made, but she tells me every time that she wouldn't change it for the world, because that growth has been worth the struggle. She is happier now. When I look back on my own story I can say the same for myself.
We have all faced these forks in the road, and struggled in darkness to find some light again. Perhaps it's been in times of uncertainty about our relationship with our significant other, wondering whether to stay or to go, or perhaps when we have lost someone close to us, or perhaps it has been as a result of something less obvious - a general feeling of loss or unhappiness. Whatever the cause, our times of darkness can be times of opportunity. Difficulty and darkness do not have to define us or represent a negative episode in our lives: instead they have the potential to inspire incredibly positive growth and change - changes that we can benefit from for the rest of our lives. Sometimes that growth needs only you to make it. In other times, having someone outside of the chaos to guide you towards your values, to remind you to ask yourself what really matters to you, and to remind you that in this difficulty lies opportunity, can be the lifeline you need to get you through. In the dark places, new shoots grow - and who knows where those shoots will lead; they could well be moving you towards the very best version of you.
Are you stuck at a fork in the road, or in a dark place and unsure of where to go next? Life coaching could really help you to move forwards positively, with intention and with hope. If you're ready for some coaching to help you with this, arrange a free consulting call today.