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On this New Year’s day

the future opens before us sparkling with promise, yet tainted by the experience of having been victimized by a psychopath. What can we do with that experience, so it doesn’t keep us on the side of the road when we want to move forward? We can’t change it, forget it, or  just leave it behind — it will come along with us whether we want it to or not. But we can bring it into the future in a way that doesn’t hobble us or weigh us down. In fact, we can bring it into the future in a way that actually makes our journey ahead a better one.

How?

From your biggest struggle, forge meaning, and build identity.

“We don’t seek the painful experiences that hew our identities, but we seek our identities in the wake of painful experiences. We cannot bear a pointless torment, but we can endure great pain if we believe that it’s purposeful. Ease makes less of an impression on us than struggle. We could have been ourselves without our delights, but not without the misfortunes that drive our search for meaning. “Therefore, I take pleasure in infirmities,” St. Paul wrote in Second Corinthians, ‘for when I am weak, then I am strong.'”

~ Writer Andrew Solomon, from his brilliant TED talk, ‘How the Worst Moment of Our Lives Make Us Who We Are.’

Solomon says, “For a long time, I thought the meaning was out there, some great truth waiting to be found…We call it finding meaning, but we might better call it forging meaning…You need to take the traumas and make them part of who you’ve come to be, and you need to fold the worst events of your life into a narrative of triumph, evincing a better self in response to things that hurt.”

To give yourself hope and inspiration for the year ahead, listen to him talk about forging meaning from his own adversity and how some others did it, too (and keep a box of tissues handy, because the last few minutes hold a very moving surprise).

How the Worst Moments of Our Lives Make Us Who We Are

 

“When we’re ashamed, we can’t tell our stories, and stories are the foundation of identity…Forging meaning is about changing yourself. Building identity is about changing the world. All of us with stigmatized identities face this question daily: how much to accommodate society by constraining ourselves, and how much to break the limits of what constitutes a valid life? Forging meaning and building identity does not make what was wrong right. It only makes what was wrong precious.”

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