My mother’s drunk boyfriend held me under the water. Struggling, flailing, scratching, I clawed at his forearm, but I was only 8 years old. All I could do was look up through the shimmering water at his distorted image. Finally, I gave up and just waited, unmoving, praying that drowning would not be very painful. But he pulled me back out.
Many years later, after he was no longer with my mother, I ran into him at a restaurant. He came over to me and my girlfriend. Shocked, I robotically stood and shook his extended hand, and answered his questions about my life. “I heard you won some kind of world championship in fighting,” he said, “See? I guess all those years I was tough on you paid off.”
A fuse blew inside me. I was no longer under the water, and I could easily choke out this old man and make him feel the water I had gulped into my 8 year old lungs. But my girlfriend touched my forearm gently, and as I turned to look at her, my eyes softened, and too my awareness reopened. I came back into myself.
“It is not what you wrongly did to me, but what I correctly grew within myself. It is not what you put me through that defined who I am. It is how I got through it that has made me the person I am today.” As I said these words, I put money on the table and my girlfriend and I walked out.
Your coping skills you develop to combat and escape your traumatic circumstances are a credit to you and those who loved and supported you through them. You deserve the credit for being a survivor and a victor. Circumstances, or the people who cause them, do not deserve any gratitude for what they did to you.
Be grateful for the opportunity you created within yourself to grow. Certainly, you can feel gratitude that events and people happened in your life, because when they happened, you discovered within yourself that your resources are far greater than you had imagined them to be.
As Wayne Dyer writes, “With everything that has happened to you, you can either feel sorry for yourself, or treat what has happened as a gift. Everything is either an opportunity to grow, or an obstacle to keep you from growing. You get to choose.”
When you face a crisis, don’t ask, “Why did this happen to me? Can I even get out of this?” Ask yourself, “What do I have to access which will resolve this challenge, and how can I grow from this despite it?” You can. You will. You choose.