Sunday, August 31, 2014

Learn to improve your personal response to life's many challenges and difficulties

By Jonathan Dunnemann
A better world needs to start somewhere, and there is no easier place to begin the work than in our hearts and minds. - Daniele Bolelli
If you are fortunate to have lived as long as I have and to have survived as many of life's most difficult challenges as I have then most likely, you cannot help but to feel a deep and equal sense of gratitude.

In fact, you too have probably come to recognize just how much it seems as though our lives move through various stages. As we go through each one of these stages, I believe that we are constantly being given a chance to develop a variety of survival skills that are needed in order for us to press on and learn how to effectively handle the unique adventure that we are encountering at any given time.

On the surface, what we find ourselves faced with may seem daunting and unlike anything that others are dealing with. However, I would like to suggest to you that all such events will ultimately aid us in discovering a new means to nourish ourselves and our goals, and to sore to new heights while steadily becoming the best possible version of ourselves. 

Last evening, I met a young man, DJ, who at twenty-one years of age was feeling suicidal. My immediate reaction to him was that of concern. Here is this handsome and from all appearances healthy young man, what could be so out of kilter in his life that it would cause him to have suicidal thoughts? I asked DJ to please sit down in a chair right beside me so that I could keep a watchful eye on him as I began obtaining some basic information about his identity. 

Although I am not a chaplain, nurse, physician or social worker, the first thing that I hoped to do was to put DJ at ease.  I attempted to do so by telling him that he is someone with value and that there is a purpose for his life. It may not be obvious to him at the moment but that it would be revealed to him in time. For this reason, I asked DJ to hang in there and continue to seek the answers to his most pressing issues and questions. I pointed out to him that it has been my experience in life that there are no failures, only lessons to be learned.

DJ went on to share with me that he and his girlfriend have a very young child together, that his girlfriend recently broke up with him, and that as a result he has become homeless. Understandably, that is a great deal of responsibility for anyone to deal with let alone a 21 year old. I asked DJ not to loose hold of his hope. I then tried to further assure him that by acknowledging to himself that he needs outside support that he is taking a very positive step in the right direction and placing himself out of possible immediate physical danger.


As your lives continues to unfold, indeed there will be some common experiences or events that may lead us to fear that we will be overtaken by anxiety, confusion, depression, despair, grief, loneliness, pain, sadness or other negative feelings and thoughts. In such instances, it is tremendously important for someone like DJ or you or I to remain aware that no matter the circumstances there are always hidden treasures that exist both within and outside of us that we are at liberty to draw upon. The combined actions of stepping outside of yourself for a moment along with giving yourself some kindness can help to put your present personal experience into greater perspective. These and other options when put to constructive use will better facilitate calmly coping with our circumstances, regaining our composure, and over the long-term equip us in developing an increased level of resilience.

Even when a good friend or helpful family member is not available you can begin to take better control of the situation by very carefully exploring your 'self-talk'. This often leads to the identification of what is at the root of one's overriding suicidal thinking. In DJ's particular case, his recurring thoughts centered around the loss of his girlfriend and access to their child. This undesired change created within his mind and heart a strong and persistent feeling of failure as a man and a sense of worthlessness as a human being.

With highly-skilled and regular assistance, DJ could be shown how some of his thoughts were really quite natural in light of the serious nature of his situation but that they need not be permitted to become oppressive and permanent. There are lots of other people who have experienced what DJ is now facing and yet most of them were able to successfully find a reasonable and lasting way through their ordeal. Given adequate time, I believe that DJ will be capable of doing so as well.