Overcoming Severe Hardship


Life can be brutally unfair, and you can’t take your severe experiences personally.

Understand that you are a changing being who has endured an experience, and that you can choose how to define yourself.

Don’t let your feelings control your decisions and thoughts.

Focus on reality and “right now”.

Find and focus heavily on hope that things will change.

Get help from others who can help.

Hardship makes friendships complicated.

To help others in their hardship, focus on what they really need.

Give yourself time to recover and heal.

How do I cope?

Life can be brutally unfair:
  • Sometimes, we’re born into a home that doesn’t teach us what we must learn or understand.
  • Other times, we get what we deserve, but it’s far too harsh.
  • Even other times, we’ve succeeded spectacularly but people punish us for things beyond our control.
  • In the mix of this, people can discriminate against us because of wrong beliefs, such as our race or decisions we made decades ago.

Do not take any of your hardships personally:
  • When people judge you, they’re boxing you into a category of something sub-human, but they do it to everyone in that situation like you, and it’s nothing worth taking personally.
  • Others’ harsh behaviors are often self-protective measures veering into excess.
  • Your way of thinking was established by your parents/guardians and genetics.
  • When you made bad decisions, you didn’t know what you know now, and would make that decision differently if you could relive the experience.
  • You can make decisions with what you have, not what you ought to have done.

People will demonstrate inappropriate behaviors toward you from their projection, transference, and poor self-management skills:
  • People will project their feelings onto you:
    • Criticism often comes from feeling shame.
    • Unsolicited advice often comes from regret.
    • Avoiding is frequently the result of insecurities.
    • Even selfless behavior that harms you can often come from feelings of guilt.
  • Trauma will often transfer to you:
    • Over-reaction is usually from other people that hurt them before you came along.
    • Trust issues are often unspoken (and often unaware) expectations.
  • Many people project their poor self-management onto others:
    • Blame is often from poor anger management skills.
    • Anxiety is frequently from not being able to see the big picture.
    • Doubt and prejudice is often from a lack of understanding.
  • Plus, all of the above behaviors are usually caused by things they are completely unaware about.

Whatever happened, you must control how it’ll influence you:
  • If you don’t commandeer your own identity, your awful experience will drive you into an endless pit of self-loathing or blame and, eventually, bitterness.
  • By not taking responsibility for yourself and your decisions, you permit the hardship to keep running its course, along with any further evil anyone has committed against you.

Understand who you are

You’re the chaotic accumulation of a variety of experiences and responses:
  • Everything you started with and had no control over:
    • Race, ethnicity, and family’s geographical location
    • Specific family of origin and health
    • Dispositional elements like personality and preferences
    • Natural talents and weaknesses
    • Culture of origin including habits, traditions and rituals
  • Every experience you’ve been through, good or bad
  • Each decision you’ve made, with every single one creating some type of consequence.
    • Further, the things you’ve learned from those experiences.
  • Habits you’ve accumulated from all of the above, which you only have partial control over when you’re aware of them.
  • Nobody is quite like you, so nobody else matters much for comparison.

Thus, you are not a “static” existence:
  • You’re a changing, dynamic person, with the thing called “You” being a vast set of experiences made by various iterations of “Past You”.
    • Your muscles are constantly breaking down or healing.
    • You can’t have the same thought twice.
  • You have less in common with the version of you 10 years ago than with your peers.
  • Every decision you make from this point dictates who “Future You” can become.

If you don’t remove “static” thinking, you’re guaranteed to become (and stay) a “victim”:
  • Difficulties have hit you, and you’re now reaping severely painful consequences.
  • Even though it might not have been your fault, you’re still responsible to change from it.
  • You must replace your “victim” identity with a more powerful one like “overcomer”, “persevering”, “conqueror”, “adaptable”, “changing” or “resilient”.

Ignorant people will judge you for your hardship, and you must decide to either define yourself by how much your closest friends love you, or how little your enemies hate you.

Give yourself plenty of grace:
  • Your experience was devastating, and it’ll interfere with your ability to perform familiar things.
  • Don’t make future plans or expect much from yourself, at least until the initial wave of emotional shock wears off.

Don’t let feelings run you

We can’t control our feelings directly, but we can control our beliefs that frame those feelings:
  • We tend to fall into a state of “temporary insanity” when we experience severe pain, anger, sadness, or anxiety.
  • The more we live in that situation, the more that temporary state defines us.
  • Instead, we must stand on what we know, especially if it’s true and good.

It’s our nature to make stories about how the situation has played out, but never do that in the midst of any hardship:
  • When we suffer, we often tend to make a story of our past experiences that ends in “now”.
    • Further, if we dwell on it, we tend to make stories based on that miserable story to imagine all the possible future bad stories that could happen.
  • You’re in the middle of the story, and every good story has an awful middle.

The only cure to stopping the “temporary insanity” of emotional overwhelm is self-analysis:
  1. Stop what we’re doing.
  2. Calm down.
  3. Take a deep look inside.
  4. Analyze what’s really going on inside us.

Most professional therapists are simply assisting with our self-analysis process:
  • Their goal is to equip you with information (and sometimes medication or habits) that empower you to stop reacting to your self-destructive feelings and make better decisions.
  • While psychological therapy is often worth it, it’s not for everyone:
    • Being poor means a professional therapist may be too expensive.
    • People with trust issues will have a hard time believing the therapist’s diagnosis.
    • Ambitious people will have trouble with most modern therapeutic practices (i.e., not giving answers and expecting the person to discover it themselves).
    • Often, self-victimizing people will rely too heavily on a therapist and may become codependent to a legal substance like antidepressants or anti-psychotics.
  • If therapy isn’t a good approach, try a self-made approach:
    • Find a friend willing to listen through your issues.
    • Learn and research psychology, with an emphasis on developmental stages and trauma recovery.
    • Find support groups for your problems.

Focus on reality

When you suffer, it’s easy to escape:
  • There are a vast variety of substances that allow us to hide away from the pain.
  • While it creates a temporary refuge from the pain, it’s a major detriment to long-term happiness.
  • Very frequently, once we start the habit of escaping from the pain, we will cycle through various substances.

The only way to make any positive change requires blatant self-enforced honesty about reality:
  • Chronic media consumption (TV, games, etc.) will burn up the already short life we have.
  • Substance abuse causes long-term health issues, as well as sabotaging our mind’s ability to self-discipline thoughts.
  • Shifting from the present moment makes us habitually inattentive.
  • Socializing to avoid what we should think about makes us shallow and petty through a constant rush of endorphins.
  • Alienating to avoid confronting the issues we must encounter burns bridges to healthy solutions that we would have had otherwise.
  • If you don’t face reality, you’ll block and repress it.

Learn gratitude for what you do have:
  • Unless we’re find some sort of satisfaction with what we still have (or expect to have), we will live in despair.
  • No matter how dismal you feel, your loss is built on a blessing.
    • Your spouse or son dying means you were blessed with them for a time.
    • If you’re now disabled, you could have died.
    • If you’re dying, you’ve had the blessing of life.
    • People who leave and betray you open up new opportunities.
    • Even if you’ve suffered a war, your entire family and all your friends are dead, the enemy forces took over, and you’re now a slave to a punitive master, you’re still alive.
  • And, after all the above, your situation by comparison may not be as bad as you feel.

Reality, however, is painful:
  • When the hardship imposes itself, we frequently have zero control over the trauma and suffering it brings.
  • By accepting reality has happened, we open ourselves to the possibility of making some sort of reliable change to it.
  • In the short-term, coldly accepting reality is more painful than escaping it, but the long-term returns are exponentially better.

However, we don’t need to accept all the painful realities at once:
  • We only need to focus on the scope of reality that sits within our direct control.
  • Any further than what we can emotionally withstand will create unbelievable anxiety and distress.
  • Depending on the situation, this may require observing reality second-by-second.

The world of possibilities is never reality:
  • You have no idea what could have happened if things were different.
  • Any regrets or shock about possible decisions you could have made are not rational.

To accept and focus on reality, stay centered on “now”:
  1. Only focus on the following:
    • The present day
    • The things you can touch or interact with
    • People you are communicating with right now or later today
    • The next time you must be somewhere
    • The very next task you must do
  2. If your mind starts drifting, focus back onto what is present.
  3. Then, repeat it the next day.

Getting to a place of “perpetual present-ness” requires self-disciplining ourselves to constantly release everything else:
  • While it’s absolutely a worthwhile endeavor to find God in the darkest places of our lives, many people have released control without any religious components.
    • It’s worth noting that legitimate spiritual experiences are more likely to happen while under severe hardship, so that’s the best time to discover God.
  • If anything keeps floating into your consciousness, write it out plainly and thoroughly to get a grasp of what that thing is.
  • Even when things are terrible, focus strictly on what you’re responsible for to find meaning in suffering.

Focus on hope

We all need hope to keep moving forward:
  • No matter how bleak the situation, we can persist if we can believe in a better future.
  • But, without that hope, even slight inconveniences will tear us apart.

Most people grow up habituated toward a certain amount of hope, but not everyone has that luxury:
  • If you don’t have enough hope, you must consciously build it.
  • Without hope, you will either become impulsive or emotionally implode.

Wherever we are, we can add hope to our lives:

Work tenaciously to avoid things that will sabotage hope:
  • Avoid stories of people in a situation that is similar but less severe than yours.
  • Miserable people will drag you down, especially if they abuse any substances.
  • Push away from friends and family who constantly try to “fix” your situation without empathy.
  • Don’t read post-modern philosophy, since it’s completely deconstructive without building toward anything.
  • Since it may discourage you, don’t read or watch anything you have a hard time understanding.
  • Don’t consume any depressing media that doesn’t develop toward something inspirational by the end.
  • Avoid social venues that center on any of the above (e.g., social media, substance abusers, some churches).

Get outside help

If you’re in a position of need, you must rely on others, even if they’ve never, ever pulled through before:
  • This doesn’t mean that they’ll help you this time either, but you have absolutely no choice: you need people.
  • Instead of dwelling on what they may do, try to find creative solutions to your need for support or look for other sources.

It’s not uncommon for well-intended solutions to hurt you further:
  • As much as possible, focus your frustration at the most specific problem possible (e.g., not all government employees or bosses are awful human beings).
  • Since you’re in the problem, don’t think about solving it until you’re out of it.

If you’ve been hurt by a popular solution to your problem, don’t give your full opinion on it unless you’re willing to take a hit to your reputation:
  • Frequently, the most popular solutions to your hardship have either come from trial-and-error (and therefore need reconsideration), or they’re a broad catch-all solution to something nobody wants to talk about or deal with.
  • Most of the people who feel uncomfortable with your opinions are likely part of the problem you’re suffering under.

Even with plenty of support, you still must make difficult decisions to change:
  • Recovering from devastating experiences requires more unpleasant experiences than what you’ve endured.
    • Making personal changes is already difficult without the burden of your experiences, but nobody but you will make that change.
  • While you’re free to complain and become bitter at everything for what it is, you’ll have to face the same exact problems later but with an added habit of complaining and not acting.

You won’t have an easy time with friends

Extreme hardship, especially when it includes poverty, often drives away close friends from before the hardship:
  • Friendship comes through shared experience, so you’ve now out-experienced the friends you once had.
  • Hardship changes us, so we often become unrecognizable to family and close friends.
  • Many of the friends you once had before the hardship will feel uncomfortable about the new situation and won’t associate with you anymore.
  • Often, the consequences of the hardship can alienate as well (often from prejudice or anger about your decisions).

You’ll only find friends who can either love you irrespective of your experiences or able to empathize with them:
  • The people who will ensure your success will likely come from more advantaged positions, so you will need to rely on them.
  • Most people will try to relate with their experiences, and often can share the feelings even if they can’t relate to their severity.
  • However, the ultimate compromise and most valuable source of support, if you can find them, is people who have been in your situation but are no longer in it.

Often, friends who share your hardship can hold you back later:
  • They might drag you down into a feedback loop of shared commiseration.
    • Their resentment is usually about themselves (meaning they continue not working to fix it) or others (meaning they blame without a way to fix anything).
  • To the degree we don’t find answers to their source problems, outrage and bitterness have the tendency to permanently destroy our wellness.
  • If you want to succeed, depending on what you want they may peer-pressure you against it.

It’s not uncommon for people you once thought were your friends to become your enemies:
  • The community that supported you through your hardship might not be willing to change in response to your self-improvement.
  • Group leaders, especially, have trouble accepting the shifting dynamics that come from supporting someone who runs with that support.
  • Keep the friends who matter, but drop a community when they get in the way of your goals.

Sometimes you suffer from seeing others suffer

All you can do is support and love them as much as reasonably possible:
  • If that person is in a self-inflicted situation (like an addiction), only give them things that help them heal and move on from their bad lifestyle decisions.
  • However, if they’re a victim of a circumstance, or have completely renounced their decisions that brought them to their hardship, it’s your moral duty to give to accommodate their needs as much as yours.

Most people don’t know how to address others’ hardship, so it’s your responsibility:
  • Contact them soon and frequently.
  • Let them do most of the talking and temper sharing about yourself.
  • Listen without judgment.
    • Don’t give advice unless they ask for it.
    • Let silence linger while they unpack their feelings.
  • In general, either communicate “I acknowledge your pain, and am here for you” or stay silent to give them room to vent.
  • Repeat back to them how difficult their experience must feel.
    • Do not say cliche statements like “I know how you feel”.
    • Avoid diminishing statements like “At least…”.
  • Only offer help you know you can perform.
    • They’re in a delicate situation, so they will feel betrayed if you can’t pull through.
      • If, for whatever reason you fail, obsess heavily about apologizing to them as soon as possible.
    • Even if you can’t help, you can definitely let people know about their problem who might be able to.
      • If you do let people know, let the suffering person know as well, since they may feel alone and neglected.

Avoid idiot compassion:
  • Idiot compassion is when we give sympathy out of pain from seeing someone suffer instead of love for what’s best for that person.
    • It focuses on that person’s circumstances instead of their actions.
  • This empowers others to maintain a victim mentality instead of making critical changes.
  • Ask the right questions to avoid idiot compassion:
    • “What challenge are you facing?” instead of “What did they do to you?”
    • “How have you responded?” instead of “What should they have done?”
    • “How has that worked out for you?” instead of “How are they wrong?”
    • “What could you do now?” instead of “What should they do now?”
    • “If you need help, who can you ask?” instead of “Who should fix it?”
    • “What can you learn from this?” instead of “How should they be punished?”
  • If someone insists on only receiving pity and doesn’t want to fix their problem, any effort to change them will make them hate you.

Give yourself time

After any traumatic event, give yourself 18 months to recover:
  • You need time to emotionally unpack, reflect, and consider what to do from your present situation.
  • You also need time to become another person than the one who suffered the experience, then put that entire experience behind you.
  • Sometimes, life won’t give you 18 months, but take what you can.

If you don’t wait, you’ll likely create more trauma from impulsive and antagonistic decisions:
  • We grow from severe stress over a short period, but fall apart from chronic stress.

If you’ve made a bad decision, learn to forgive yourself:
  • You made a bad decision, but you don’t have to keep obsessing about it if you’ve learned from it.
  • Because you’re so afraid of it, the situation will never play itself out again.
    • And, even if it did, you’d make a different decision.
  • Your trauma is no longer useful for anything, so let it go.

Once you’ve recovered, you will be more resilient and durable than you would have been before if you accept that it happened and move on:
  • You’ve survived something, so consider yourself stronger because it hasn’t killed you.
  • If you look carefully, severe hardship can open many doors elsewhere through your expanded experience.
  • We learn through internalizing the lessons from our memories, so keep growing and keep moving forward with the knowledge that you’re stronger for what has happened to you.