Struggle can be…part of the journey, a race, a mountain, an ocean to cross, a challenge to overcome.
And struggle can also just be struggle.
Getting the news we were hoping for can be…a sign, fate, destiny, the universe working in our favor.
And also, simply the outcome of a situation.
Our experience can happen… for a reason, to teach us something, to grow us, as part of a plan.
And also for no other reason than that is our experience.
Psychology, religion, science, art. So much of what our cultures are imbued in connects to meaning making and we generally see this as a positive thing. For individuals, meaning making inspires creativity and strengthens resiliency. And on a larger scale, it threads together a narrative that communities can live into as they begin to bind and grow. The most powerful, sustainable narratives leave room mystery, curiosity, questions, doubt, and the unknown.
But when the meaning making of your mind or community (or both), is absolute and unwavering, à la “my way or the highway”, there can be trouble…
While it may be easy to pinpoint this more harmful meaning making on a global scale -think extremist factions and practices, political campaigns, etc…- it can be harder to notice when our own minds create a story about our experiences that leaves no space for questions, honest observations, or growth.
A popular example:
God/Life doesn’t give you more than you can handle.
Translation: Your suffering/pain/discomfort/stress is 1) something that has been planned for and given to you by some entity that is expecting you to manage it on your own and 2) something you definitely have the capacity to handle, therefor your feelings to the contrary are not correct.
Trouble: If you are not “handling” it you must be doing something wrong. Also, to get on board with this kind of meaning making, you would have to adopt the idea that whatever “greater than self” you are in relationship with is in the business of doling out hardship and/or joy based on some kind of cosmic sash and badge system.
Try: “Or maybe there will be experiences throughout life that we cannot fully handle in the moment, on our own, without taking a day or seven to fall apart. Maybe handling these experiences isn’t the same as “getting over” them. Perhaps we have to hold the situation for a while- feel its weight, heat, edges- before we can handle it.”
Start small and try to notice the ways you assign meaning to your experiences day in and day out. Observe the effect this meaning has on your perspective, mood, behaviors, relationships, etc… Try creating space to simply notice your experience before your mind puts an immovable moral to the story.