I turned on the radio yesterday and landed on the tail end of an interview on On Being with Ellen Langer, a professor of psychology at Harvard University. She was talking about losing 80% of her things in a house fire and calling the insurance company to report it. “…this was the first call he ever had where the damage was worse than the call and …I thought ‘Gee, it’s already taken my stuff…why give it my soul? Why pay twice? Which is so often what people do. Something happens, you have that loss, and now you are going to throw all your emotional energy at it…doubling up on the negativity.'” Her words caught my attention. Certainly, I have been known to do that — live through the “tragedy” and continue to go back to the event and relive all the angst that went with it. She continued the story with her memory of the fire and it was the kindness of the hotel employees she met while waiting for her house to be rebuilt –they filled her room with gifts while she was walking her dogs on Christmas Eve — that remains in her memory, not what she lost in the fire. What a wonderful reminder to move forward and open the space for something else to unfold. I definitely am going to pick up some of Ellen Langer’s books to learn more.
Are you able to look back on a “tragedy” now and see what transpired from it? My first heartbreak came to mind. The aftermath taught me so much about who I was, what I was capable of, and opened my world to possibilities I hadn’t considered. It was a gift…and it took me two years to figure out that it was a good thing that it happened. I’m glad to say that the time cycle for recognizing the positive outcomes has shortened considerably. This week, why don’t you give it some thought? Looking back, are you able to find the positive outcome or growth in something “bad” that happened to you? I’m planning to take up the mantra “Why pay twice?” and see what happens. We have such a short time on this earth, let’s make the most of it.