Misfortune – Why does everything go wrong?

misfortuneMost people suffer at least one misfortune during a lifetime, but if you have been experiencing a series of things going wrong, — for example losing your career, partner, home, and social standing — then perhaps you should be asking if there is something going on here you really need to know more about?

No surprise then that you feel depressed. People who know you as a caring sensitive soul, feel there is no justice in life. Just how unlucky can one get?

Margaret’s story

Margaret was pleasant company and considerate. She had been brought up by strict parents who were somewhat critical and slow to give praise. Lacking self-confidence at school she tended to give in to the demands of others. She wanted to go into nursing but her father pressurised her into taking a job in administration at a large company. There she was conscientious and hardworking and not wasting her income: but still longed for a caring role with people.

Rather than looking around properly for the right man to share her life, she settled rather too soon on Adam. Although he was very polite and well turned out, he did like to get his own way. He sponged off her for money for betting even before their marriage. Adam wanted her to be at their home looking after him and their children. Two babies came along in quick succession before she was ready to decide about her career.

Later, Adam became an increasingly frequent gambler who wasted their money. He eventually became bankrupt in business and left her and the children to fend for themselves saying he could no  longer afford to contribute to the family. Even after they were separated, she gave him some of what little money she had managed to scrape by over the years to help pay his debts. By the end of their relationship she was penniless, tired and depressed, and no place to call her own.

Understanding Margaret’s misfortune

Why on earth did Margaret get involved with Adam in the first place? Surely it was obvious that this person was taking her for a ride. But of course it wasn’t always obvious to her.

Like many people with a poor view of themselves, Margaret was inclined to act as if she did not matter much; rarely asking for favours, or venturing to voice her opinions. Whilst sensitive to how others felt, she was blind to her own emotional needs. She allowed father, husband and others to influence her unduly. As a result she didn’t make wise decisions about important aspects of their own life. I think the roots of Margaret’s continued misfortune lay within herself.

“Misfortunes one can endure–they come from outside, they are accidents. But to suffer for one’s own faults–ah!–there is the sting of life.”
Oscar Wilde, Lady Windermere’s Fan

We might wonder if at the root of Margaret might be an unease about being alone, a  suspicion she might be unworthy of devotion, and an anxiety about being ignored?

Vulnerability to misfortune

I do wonder if Margaret typifies a certain type of person who is more likely to be a loser. I am suggesting that people at risk of multiple misfortune have her three traits:

1.      Unassertiveness,

2.      Low self-esteem,

3.      Sensitivity.

How the first of these causes things to go wrong is perhaps more easily seen: if you fail to stand up for yourself don’t be surprised if someone sooner or later takes advantage to your lasting cost.

But what of the other two traits?

Some one with low esteem reminds me of the joke about the guy who noticed an exclusive social club with many desirable features. When he had a chance to join, he turned it down saying that he wouldn’t want to join a club that would be prepared have him as a member! But feeling a low sense of worth is no laughing matter — it takes away self-confidence and is associated with depression.

Sensitivity to another person’s feelings can almost be experiencing such feelings as one’s own. Sure, since Carl Rogers championed empathy in counsellors, we have seen this as a desirable quality. But can’t it have its down side? Like when you so feel for somebody’s problems that you take them on as your own.

Need for truth and love

I’m not saying all suffering and misfortune is the fault of the sufferer. Far from it. But sometimes you can play a part in your own downfall. Breaking unfortunate patterns requires much reflection and resolve.

Once you bring the ways you inwardly think out into the open, you can examine them in the light of day and challenge them if unrealistic or self-defeating, and look to making some real changes in your behaviour.

There is a mistake in assuming your own opinions are less important than that of others. Only you can judge what is right for you but this does mean making a correct assessment based on inner rather external considerations.

“Stop judging by mere appearances, and make a right judgment.”
(John 7:24)

This is where truth and love come in. Acknowledging the truth about one’s mistakes is surely the first step to better fortune.

Like seeing the error of running yourself down or of neglecting your own needs. How can you expect to be able to love others until you can first care for yourself?

“I hope that real love and truth are stronger in the end than any evil or misfortune in the world.” (Charles Dickens)

Yes I feel the way to avoid a string of misfortune is to recognise the mistakes one can make in life and do something about it.

Copyright 2013 Stephen Russell-Lacy
Author of Heart, Head & Hands Swedenborg’s perspective on emotional problems

Disappointment — How to get over it?

disappointment
Michael Phelps

Michael Phelps was the most decorated Olympian swimmer of all time. To most people for someone with his ability anything less than several gold medals would have been a disappointment. But  do they not need to learn a lesson about life?

“If I bring back only one gold, people are going to say it’s a disappointment. But not too many of them own an Olympic gold medal, so if I get one I’m going to be happy.”
(Michael Phelps)

Yet many people suffer the tears of disappointment. A lot of things can go wrong for you: a setback in your career: loss of money in a business venture: feeling let down by a friend or professional colleague: the heartbreak of being disappointed in love: even the disappointment of a favourite football team losing an important match.

When you least feel like it, you desperately need the, not-so-simple, act of picking yourself up, pulling yourself together, and going constructively forward. But where do you find this resilience? How can you move on from the tears of disappointment?

A Taoist story about disappointment

According to one spiritual perspective, disappointing events, despite appearances to the contrary, aren’t always as bad as you first assume. There is an ancient Taoist parable that tells of an old man and his son who lived alone in poor conditions. Their only possession of value was a horse. One day, the horse ran away. The neighbours came by to offer sympathy, telling the old man how unlucky he was.

`How do you know?’ asked the old man.

The following day the horse returned, bringing with it several wild horses, which the old man and his son locked inside their gate. This time the neighbours hurried over to congratulate the old man on his good fortune.

`How do you know?’ asked the old man.

The next thing that happened was that his son tried to ride one of the wild horses but fell off and broke his leg. The neighbours were quick to tell the old man that this was a disastrous turn of events.

`How do you know?’ asked the old man.

Soon after, the army came through, press-ganging young men into service to fight a battle far away. All the local young men were taken – except the old man’s son, because his leg was broken!

In other words appearance can be deceptive. Maybe there is a hidden benefit or at least a  lesson in something going wrong if only you could see it.

Disappointment due to an unreasonable attitude

One possible hidden lesson can be to do with what is unreasonable in your attitude towards others. Disappointed in your adult child’s choice of career or your best friend’s choice of sexual partner? You might ask yourself whether this possibly indicates you are expecting someone to be the way you want them to be and not being what they want to be? If so why not try letting events to simply take their course accepting people as they are? Why not allow them freedom to do what they feel is right for them, without trying to control them, without trying to impose your own ideas and beliefs, without trying to fight against them? You might then feel less disappointed in what they do.

Exaggerating the importance of something

Perhaps you need to ask whether a feeling of disappointment might be due to your exaggerating the significance of something? If so, you could try thinking of all the bad things that could have happened but didn’t. Would it really be the end of the world if you lose your social standing, your job, or even your spouse?

It may be too late to recover the situation. But is it too late to apply what you have learned to what happens next? That is if you have learned anything of value about where you might have been going wrong. New opportunities arise in a changed situation. ‘When one door closes, another opens’. You could let go of the old circumstance and grasp the new one. Don’t give up on your dream — you never know what is waiting for you behind a certain door.

Not all that happens is connected with you

If you are upset about failing in something you might ask whether there is a lesson here to do with your attitude towards yourself. Perhaps you have the attitude that life owes you a triumph which you deserve? Or perhaps you see yourself as worthless and undeserving of any accomplishment and what happened just proves this.

But surely failure doesn’t necessarily mean there is always something good or bad about you? Okay, some of what happened could have been prevented. But other things were facets of every day life that you have to contend with and over which you have little or no control. Some days the sun comes out and shines persistently, on other days it rains with a ferocity that is hard to comprehend.

Not all is at it appears

No one can clearly see what will happen in the next hour, never mind in future months and years. But if you sense in any way, an all-knowing divine force within the workings of the universe, then you might wonder whether there is a higher benevolence, concerned for your inner happiness: and that despite your outward disappointments there might be unforeseen eventualities helpful to you.

One such potential benefit of disappointment is the chance it offers for us to learn a  lesson of life conducive to personal development.

“Disappointment to a noble soul is what cold water is to burning metal; it strengthens, tempers, intensifies, but never destroys it.”(Unknown author)

Copyright 2013 Stephen Russell-Lacy
Author of Heart, Head & Hands Swedenborg’s perspective on emotional problems