From Adversity, Forge Meaning

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.


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,'” says writer Andrew Solomon in 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.”

♥ Happy New Year

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8 thoughts on “From Adversity, Forge Meaning”

  1. Carolyn K.

    A great way to begin the 2015 NEW YEAR! Take it from one who was married to a psychopath for 34 years! I lived out the “mind games” and “emotional” abuse on a daily basis for all those years!
    Fortunately, 15 years ago I sought counseling hoping to figure out just how to change MYSELF into the wife he would respect and treat like my father and my brothers treated their wives and my friends husbands treated them! The psychologist I chose almost immediately upon meeting ,”Mr Wonderful”, suggested that he see a counselor by himself and that she would like to help me.
    And she DID!!
    THANKFULLY, this wonderful woman “carried weight” with the courts!! I REMAIN MOST THANKFUL TO THIS VERY DAY! Whenever, the “light is on a psychopath!! You need strength and support! Surround yourself with those who love and support you!

    Life is great ! Share your story! Empower others to be all GOD CREATED THEM TO BE!

    My husband was well known and respected in our community and at the State level in his profession. He received numerous awards both at the local and State levels during his career as a coach and educator. His office at home was filled with trophies and awards!We met in church and his father was our Pastor.

    When our children began to leave home he showed me no mercy and

    1. Admin

      34 years! I can’t even fathom it. Thank goodness for your psychologist! Your positive mindset will be very encouraging to others here. Thanks for sharing it, Carolyn. I hope you’ll come back and finish your story. Happy new year!

      1. Carolyn Kidwell

        Thank you for your kind words!

        I would like in finishing to say it is NEVER TOO LATE OR YOU ARE NEVER TOO OLD To leave any relationship evolving a psychopath!
        I found some very dear friends via a christian singles group and now 15 years later I remain in contact with a number of them . You deserve to have every GOOD thing!

        AS WELL, I finished my MA in Counseling to give a better picture of just how I can use what I came TRU for GOOD and become light in a sometimes DARKENED WORLD!

        Several of my close friends from our singles group and I formed a non profit HOPE FOR EXPLOITED WOMEN AND CHILDREN and had the pleasure of watching miracles take place ! A private investigator saw what we were able to accomplish and offered pro bono assistance to us!!

        God has your BACK and You are not alone no matter what you have been told! You have it within you !! A success story, waiting to be WRITTEN!!

        Bless you Admin

        1. Admin

          Thank you for your encouraging words! I’m sure they will give hope to those who wonder how they’ll ever get through it. I’m planning on a blog post (or a series of them) written by people who have successfully recovered, and I’d like to use what you’ve written here. If you’d like to add any more details about the process you went through and what helped most, please email me at “paths and love at gmail dot com.” This invitation is open to anyone reading this. Thanks again, Carolyn!

  2. Depressedempath

    Thankyou Admin for another great post. Happy New year!
    This post is so pertinent and true. My relationship with a psycho was good for me. After I hit rock bottom, then figured out what was happening, i came to see what are the most important things in a relationship. Trust, respect and autonomy. I had none of those from the psycho. Most of all, the psycho made me learn so much about myself. Everyday I appreciate my life and my family. I treasure every moment and every experience. If I erase my psycho experience then I would be back to not appreciating the good side of life. So Thankyou psycho, you made me find myself .

    1. Admin

      That’s great! I feel the same way. No P’s intended on this outcome so I give them no credit, but I wouldn’t erase it either because of what I was able to turn it into. It’s to our credit that we can take something so abysmal and forge meaning from it. There’s a lot to gain from it. It doesn’t all come at once, and I suspect there’s still more to come to light.

      I love when the speaker says you can forge meaning from a bad experience, and still be mad as hell.

      Happy new year to you, too!

  3. Nearlybel

    Thank you Carolyn for your inspiring story, your light certainly shines brightly, for us all to follow. After 20 years of hell, I thought of my own making, I learned what he was and took steps to get us away from him, that was nearly 3 years ago, we left the family home 18 months ago, a massive positive change for us all. I’m still in the courts with him but every day away from him is a blessing, I know he is extremely dangerous but refuse to live my life in fear, he is increasingly an unimportant being in my life, he has occasional contact with one of the children ( he bribes the teenager with money) but he is the only one. I’ll hopefully be finished in the courts this year and unless he gets another victim, he will shrivel and die, but if that doesn’t happen :) I will forge ahead, doing what I can to shine that light on their darkness. And I will live my life as I was always meant to, before he snared me. They are nothing without us. Nothing beings. They suck the life out of us, they disarm and disable and then they seek to destroy us, well we are still standing, what an achievement, and at this time I would like to remember all the victims that didn’t make it, that were murdered, those that took their own lives, those so badly damaged they cannot participate fully or at all in society whether due to drugs, alcohol or un/mis/diagnosed mental illness, the cost in human terms is massive, all down to these evil predators.
    Much love to all xxx

    1. Admin

      Nearlybel, you are right — they are nothing without us, nothing without a victim. They return to their eternally empty and meaningless existence. That’s a shame, but there’s nothing we can do to change it — we can’t save them, we can only save ourselves.

      It’s quite the opposite for us without them, though — we can return to lives of love and joy and peace. All we lost when we ‘lost’ them were lies, empty promises, cruelty, and heartache. How I wish everyone could see that! I’m sure most do, eventually, but I want everyone to know it. I can’t stand the thought of even one person irreparably damaged.


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