It doesn’t matter who you are or how many luxuries you have; every person is going to experience hardships in their life. These are the moments where life feels especially difficult, and they often feel as though they’ll last forever. However, most hardships are temporary. Getting through a hardship often requires focusing on the fleeting nature of them.
Why It Matters that Hardships are Temporary
To clarify, this article defines hardships as moments where the person experiences significant stress. This stress can be emotional, physical, financial, relational, or something else completely. Ultimately, the person experiences discomfort, and it becomes easy to believe that the discomfort will never go away. However, feeling that a hardship will last forever does not mean that it will. Though listening to your emotions is beneficial, only using your feelings to assess your situation becomes a cognitive distortion. This specific distortion is “emotional reasoning,” and it convinces a person that what they feel is what reality is (e.g., “I feel scared; therefore, this situation is objectively scary.”). Essentially, when a person experiences a hardship, the felt emotions can make the situation seem immutable.
Unfortunately, this belief can exacerbate the issue by sapping away the necessary energy for change. Here’s an example to make that more clear. Imagine that your friend has been involuntarily single for months, and is starting to become morose. On top of that, they’re starting to believe that this unwanted singlehood will never change. Their belief may affect their actions (e.g., staying inside more often, deleting their dating apps), which may then impact their chances of actually finding someone. However, knowing that a hardship is temporary can help it feel more manageable. By incorporating logical reasoning and problem solving, there can be more motivation to take on the issue. Think about it this way: believing that you have to run a marathon can be very daunting, but discovering that you actually only have to run a mile is a lot more encouraging.
Seeing Your Life as a Series of Chapters
After explaining the benefits of seeing hardships as temporary, here’s how you can do it. While in a stress-free environment, grab some paper and a pen. Before you write anything down, reflect on the major events in your life. Go back as far as you can. After you have done that, envision your life as an ongoing novel. What are the titles of the chapters in your book? Pick a starting point (e.g., elementary school) and create a chapter for each major life event, eventually ending with your current one. Don’t think too hard on the titles; simply write down what comes to mind. Here’s an example of how it can look.
Chapter 1: Maria Enters the World
Chapter 2: Maria Leaves Home and Enters Pre-School
Chapter 3: Maria Brings Home Her First Report Card
Chapter 4: Maria’s First Two Christmases
Chapter 5: Maria versus Puberty!
Chapter 6: Maria and Her First Heartbreak
Chapter 7: Maria Experiences Death in the Family
Chapter 8: Maria Graduates High School!
Chapter 9: Maria Finds Herself in College
Chapter 10: Maria and the Curious Case of Finding a Job
After you have created the chapters leading up to today, guess the next five chapters of your life. What will be their titles? Here’s another example using Maria.
Chapter 11: Maria Tackles Her Student Loans
Chapter 12: Maria Finds True Self-Love...Probably
Chapter 13: Maria Discovers a New Passion
Chapter 14: Maria Debates Going Back to School
Chapter 15: Maria Finds True Self-Love...Definitely
Now that you have written down your chapters, take some time to reflect on what you felt during each one. What were the emotions that you experienced, and as you reflect on the chapters, what are the emotions that you feel now? Additionally, reflect on how you were able to persevere during the harder chapters. Here’s example of how it can all look.
Feelings Then: sad, scared, confused, angry
Feelings Now: sad, accepting, content, at peace
How I Got Through It: spent more time with friends and family, got more into art, went to therapy
Though you don’t have to write down what you felt for each chapter, do reflect on what you felt for each one. What did you feel then versus now? Doing so can highlight the impermanence of your emotions and hardships. Additionally, noting how you got through certain hardships can emphasize your strengths and abilities, which you can use for future and current problems. To use Maria as an example, she has definitely experienced some hardships in her life. At the same time, those hardships did not persist for every chapter. Even though Maria had to experience her parents’ divorce, that life event was not the subject for chapters five through ten. There’s a high chance that you had a similar experience when writing your life chapters. Furthermore, the five future chapters also tend to emphasize the fleeting nature of hardships. In Maria’s case, she assumes that she eventually finds a job; unemployment isn’t a subject in her next five chapters. Ultimately, when doing this activity, the chances of every chapter having the same subject is very low. This is because many people on an unconscious, fundamental level believe that most problems are temporary. They sometimes just need a concrete reminder of that.
Hardships will always be a part of life, and unfortunately, it can be easy to see these problems as everlasting. However, challenging this viewpoint can give you the strength and motivation to get through your current issue. One way in which you can do this is by envisioning your life as a novel, and creating chapters for each life event. However, if you still feel bleak regarding your current hardship, therapy could be useful. Schedule a therapist online at https://www.therapyinphiladelphia.com/contact/ .