In Journey Beyond Hardship, author Greg Pacini offers a down-to-earth and compelling manual for making your way through difficult times.
You may be fighting with all your might to leave an abusive relationship or to recover from an addiction. Your body may be altered by illness or injury, and the adjustment may seem more than you can bear. Miscarriage may have you mourning more than you imagined possible. You may be picking up the pieces of your life after a natural disaster. You may be heartbroken. You may be a target of prejudice. You may be in terror at the news of a diagnosis. You may be struggling after months without work. Your life may feel empty for some clear reason or no reason at all.
Whatever the source, if something continues to be hard for you, then it is hardship.
Difficult thoughts and feelings come with difficult times. As a guide for these tough times, Journey Beyond Hardship not only provides a road map for the trip—it offers concrete tools for making your way. One technique called Reading the Edges allows you to experience emotions without being overwhelmed by them.
Hope can be hard to come by during times of trauma and tragedy. Journey Beyond Hardship introduces a science-based means for generating hope.
Hardship is part of the human condition. So is the human spirit to overcome.
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Journey Beyond Hardship
A Practical, Hopeful Guide for Getting Through Tough Times
By Greg Pacini
Balboa PressCopyright © 2015 Greg Pacini, MS, LPC, CGP
All rights reserved.
Packing: Preparing for The Journey
The Healing Journey
Consider, if you will, your hardship as a journey. The beginning of that journey may be very clear to you though the end seems out of sight. The journey might have started years ago—or just yesterday. You may have had time to prepare for the difficulties of that journey or no time at all. You might have been absolutely overwhelmed when the journey began. Or you may have neatly folded up all your feeling, bundled them away, and carried on.
While we can't take the hardship out of humanity, humanity is equipped with an instinct for healing and wholeness. That instinct just seems broken sometimes. And strange as it may sound, the road to healing goes right through hardship, not around.
As you embark on your journey, please be mindful of this: Compassion is the best fuel. Without the highest possible regard for yourself during this time, your pain will grow. If you get angry, anxious or depressed, and then judge yourself for those reactions, your hardship will be amplified. The truth is, if you tended to be angry, anxious or depressed before the hardship, there's a good chance the stress of your trauma will exaggerate those emotions. Compassion for yourself, right now, as you are, will help the pain. You are allowed to be human.
Beginning the Journey
At the beginning of the journey beyond tragedy, horror, joblessness, a diagnosis, an intense divorce, debt, isolation, betrayal, pain, sleeplessness, abuse, alcohol or rage, you may not even be sure of your destination. Actually, that can be a good thing. Sometimes, when you're not sure where you're going, you increase the chances of arriving somewhere different from where you've always been.
For most, hardship begins with a rush of unbearable feelings. Then, one of four things happens. Some people, in spite of the intense emotions, move on. They just take the next step, and then the next. For others, the highly intense emotions take hold and immobilize them. Still others do something with those powerful, difficult feelings called packing. That is, the feelings are so strong and life so demanding they just stop feeling altogether, packing their feelings away. Lastly, many people go forward with their lives, managing some combination of these reactions. All in all, the beginning of the journey is mighty gritty and troublesome. While it's true that good can be found anywhere, hardship by its nature makes good hard to find.
How did your hardship journey begin? Did you have time to prepare? You may have had a quiet sense of knowing that hardship was nearing. Consequently, there may have been time to get ready. Or maybe your hardship came out of nowhere, and in an instant, the world was a very different place.
Were you one of those with a gut feeling that your life was about to change? Deep inside, you may have been putting together small cues or subtle intuitions. For you, when the crippling news came of your hardship, you were stunned, maybe even broken, but not surprised. Perhaps your tragic news came as soldiers knocking on your door, somberly delivering confirmation of fears about your son or daughter in an overseas war. Or it could be, your hardship began with devastating lab results that validated an instinct about your unborn child.
Perhaps for you, the inner rumblings that kept you up at night were proven right when your spouse walked away from the dinner table saying, "I'm in love with someone else." Or the hardship may have begun for you as all the pieces fell uncomfortably into place with the announcement at a staff meeting of major job cuts.
On the other hand, your hardship may have come with no time for you to prepare. Many life traumas arrive with no warning: a phone call informs you of the accidental death of your spouse; a normal day at work becomes something very different when a machine malfunction takes your sight; a routine colonoscopy quickly becomes anything but routine when you awake to the news of a cancer diagnosis; a walk to your car at the mall turns into a horrific violation in the parking lot; a scream from next-door calls you to the aid of a neighbor whose spouse had committed suicide; a natural disaster leveled your home in a matter of minutes. In these cases, nothing hints at the start of the hardship journey.
Packing for the Journey
Whether your hardship unfolded with warning or with no notice at all, in the beginning of the journey, things change drastically, and it's challenging to keep pace. You can feel sick on emotion. You can't catch up with yourself. On top of your emotional upheaval, there are often many urgent practical matters needing attention. As a result, painful thoughts and feelings can take a back seat. It's OK.
This is packing: tucking away difficult images and emotions that can flood you at the beginning of the journey beyond hardship. Packing affords you the energy and focus needed for daily life.
Just like preparing for a trip, packing in this sense can be a way to get ready for the journey ahead. Packing can steady you emotionally, mentally or relationally for the coming days, months or even years on the hardship road.
This is a strained, strange and unstable stage of the journey. The mind whirls. The body suffers. The heart aches. And yet in this most vulnerable time, you're asked to keep functioning in the world because the world keeps going with its jobs and responsibilities and demands for your time.
In those early weeks of your journey, did you feel lost? Did you wish you had a map? Did you wonder who was driving? Did you hope it wasn't you? Maybe you felt a surge of sureness about your travels. Perhaps you felt a rush of certainty and strength, deeply aware of what was being called for at this moment in your life. Too, you may have felt a shift in the way you viewed the people you care about. Maybe you started to act differently with them—more loving or more distant.
Perhaps you felt terribly alone. Maybe you found a trusted person you could talk to about your fear, your terror.
You may have rallied your faith in something or someone, or just sat and wondered. You may have fought wave after wave of feeling, or perhaps you stepped out of that ocean altogether. Maybe you caught yourself spending hours on the Internet looking for answers or direction. Perhaps you asked cloaked questions of family, friends or professionals, testing some sixth sense against a harder reality.
In preparing, you may have withdrawn from your usual ways, or maybe you noticed yourself racing. Could be, you began to pack away your hope. Did you box up your fear, confusion, disillusionment, anger, or sadness? Did you pack for your family?
At the start, it's often just about the next step: arrangements to be made, appointments to set and keep, emergency management, loved ones to see, insurance companies to call. Then more follow up. Consequently, you may have bypassed part or all of the initial emotions, knowing your strength was needed to contend with all this external activity.
What do people do with the bouts of sorrow, fear, hurt and more that can come at the beginning of the journey? Some pack those feelings away. Others say to themselves, "I can do this, I've handled worse." Others collapse quietly alone somewhere. Some cry. Some die inside for a minute. Some, way down in there someplace, whisper, "Why me?" Others proclaim, "Why not me!?" Many seek comfort in an explanation. Others pray. Some push others out of the way and say, "Let me do the driving." Still others make absolutely certain that their circle of support is in place.
Additionally, some experience shame: "I brought this on with my own hectic life," or, "I should have seen this coming." Others feel blame: "If it weren't for you, things would be different," or, "How could God let this happen?" And still others stuff all the courage, trust, love, confidence, and peace they can possibly fit in their emotional suitcase.
Some lives stop altogether when hardship hits: too much to feel, too much to see, too much to hear. Each reaction has its place. None is better than the other.
Later, you will unpack from your journey. But packing is typical and often necessary in the beginning. Now it's time to leave home.CHAPTER 2
Leaving Home—The Familiar
Leaving The Familiar Behind
As with most trips, on the journey through hardship once the packing is finished, you leave home. And what is home? Home is where you dangle your legs from the kitchen counter late at night, eating a cold piece of chicken while your spouse snacks on homemade coffee cake. When life is good, home is a place of comfort, peace, passion, acceptance, and familiarity. Home is a place you know.
When the journey beyond hardship begins, you leave the familiar. You leave the comfort of a well-known way of life for a place about which you know little. When you leave this metaphorical home, this place of comfort, what else is left behind? Some leave behind a fear they've lived with all their lives. Others, especially in the beginning, leave their peace and hope. Some leave the rocky road of personal issues. Like magic, tragedy can lift years of marital discord or tension within a family, as all unite to take on the trauma. Others leave shaky relationships outright, trusting such decisions will make them feel better and enable them to take on the challenge life has served up. Still others find a deeper connection to themselves.
Leaving Parts of the Personality
Jeff was thirty-nine years old when his wife died suddenly of a heart attack. The sudden loss left him adrift. As if the grief weren't enough, Jeff, a nurse, battled deep feelings of guilt about not recognizing his wife's symptoms. But most of the guilt was tucked away because he was consumed with his role as the sole caretaker of three children.
Jeff began counseling about ten months after his wife's death. Jeff had been professionally taking care of people all his adult life. When immersed in the experience of letting others help him, especially when it came to the children, Jeff realized something.
Pushing past uncomfortable emotions he revealed, "I wouldn't wish this situation on anybody. But it's changed me. I've spent all my life caring for others. When Sharon's death forced me to surrender to being cared for by others, I felt a sort of melting in me. I didn't understand it at first. Actually, I resisted it," Jeff said.
When I invited him to explain, Jeff continued, "I resisted letting others help me out. It's not something I've really ever had a lot of. But once I let go to that help, it was like medicine to me. That's when I realized that being cared for was what I wanted."
Jeff finished emphatically, "All these years of caring for others, I've been giving what I've always wanted to get."
Jeff's hardship helped him leave the safe ground of always serving others. Being served can be very unnerving for a caregiver. Jeff's strength allowed the tragedy to teach him, and his emotional life eventually improved. This can happen when we leave the familiar.
Leaving Relationships In Subtle Ways
Others traveling the journey beyond hardship find themselves leaving well-worn ways of relating to immediate family members. Karen was twenty-seven when her doctor said, "Your white cell counts are very elevated. Further testing is needed, but it's most likely you have leukemia. I'm sorry."
Three or four sessions into our work together after the diagnosis, Karen reported a change in how she was acting with her two daughters.
"I'm finding things to do on the weekends so I don't have to be at home with the girls," Karen shared. When I asked her about these choices with her girls she explained, "I think it helps me to just stay busy, but I'm not sure. The whole thing scares me."
I suggested that she consider listening to what was going on inside the next few times she made plans that didn't include her daughters. Identifying those feelings in the moment could help her understand her actions.
It wasn't long before Karen began to unpeel her emotions about the changing relationship with her daughters. Yes, staying busy did help her. Then she realized that there was a pain under the busyness. The pain was strongest around her girls. Eventually, she discovered a collision between her love for her daughters and the fear of something happening to herself. She was unconsciously leaving her children a little bit at a time, to lessen the blow of the permanent separation she feared.
In time, Karen also uncovered at an even deeper level something that surprised her. She felt a tinge of jealousy for the exuberance and carefree ways of people she saw in public places like malls and schoolyards. She even admitted some of this same jealousy for her life-loving daughters. Driven by all these feelings, Karen had left home: left the more familiar, connected relationship she had with her children prior to the diagnosis.
Other Ways of Leaving the Familiar
Like Karen, many traveling the hardship road find it difficult to be around happy people. Happiness seems to be in the rear view mirror and getting farther away.
Others move away from believing they are part of the "normal" world. Some say goodbye to their sense of invincibility. Some pull away from their spirituality. Many part with a feeling of control about life. For many, independence and self-assurance seem like they've been left behind.
Finally, some disconnect from a mind that can sometimes be still, concentrate, or remember. They disconnect from a deep knowing that A plus B does equal C. And those closest to the person dealing with hardship detach from many of the very same things—sometimes more.
Leaving things behind at this point in the journey is really the experience of loss, and loss brings its own set of feelings. But with so much external activity at the start of the journey beyond, this loss often goes unnoticed. When intense emotions overwhelm us, it may feel like we've lost ourselves.
It's important to remember that leaving home is just a beginning. Leaving something behind doesn't mean you can't return to it later.CHAPTER 3
On The Road: Beginning the Recovery Process
We're Not in Kansas Anymore
"There's no place like home. There's no place like home." Comfort is a common wish as the journey unfolds, but hardship takes us to unfamiliar lands. Whether your hardship has been the loss of a loved one, relocation, financial downfall, fending off addiction or some other difficulty, life is not the same. More importantly, going forward may mean driving through some very rough terrain: lifestyle modifications, moving, mourning, rehabilitation, repairing the relationship with yourself and others. Getting up the steam needed to head down the road may seem hard to do.
How do you begin to move forward from the confounding and unearthing experiences that make up life hardships? To be sure, there is no formula. We fumble and stumble at times just to stay upright. Sometimes even that seems like a tall order.
Those who got back on track relatively quickly after a life tragedy are fortunate. If, however, you're having a hard time regaining your balance after a hardship, here's a look at some fundamentals that may help you move in the direction you want.
Traveling down the road after tragedy can feel like driving in the dark with your headlights off. In part, this is because of changes inside you. Your life was moving along nicely, or, at the very least, you were finding your way around the life you called your own. Then, hardship rearranged all that. As a result, you may not feel sure of who you are anymore or how to make your way. What once made sense to you really doesn't now; it's as if your compass is broken.
At times like this, an approach to life can operate as a kind of GPS. A guiding principle can stabilize your goings and comings. However, you may feel tragedy shattered your guiding principle. You may not know what you believe anymore.
Excerpted from Journey Beyond Hardship by Greg Pacini. Copyright © 2015 Greg Pacini, MS, LPC, CGP. Excerpted by permission of Balboa Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
1. Packing: Preparing for The Journey, 1,
2. Leaving Home—The Familiar, 7,
3. On The Road: Beginning the Recovery Process, 12,
4. Refreshments: Little Ways to Take Care of Yourself, 22,
5. Unpacking: Thoughts About Tough Feelings, 31,
6. Rest Stop #1: Triple A–The Simple Tool for Responding to Tough Feelings, 37,
7. Detours: Matters that Move You Off Your Recovery Road, 45,
8. Rest Stop #2: One-Step Anxiety Management, 49,
9. Travel Tips for Couples, 52,
10. Rest Stop #3: Stress Bustin', 60,
11. Mountaintops: Seeing Life from a New Perspective, 69,
12. Rest Stop #4: Values and Voting with Your Feet, 74,
13. Who's Really Driving? View from the Support Person's Window, 79,
14. Rest Stop #5: Clearing the Clouds of Trauma and Anxiety, 85,
15. Potholes: Unexpected Emotions that Jar You, 94,
16. Road Weary: Compassion Fatigue for Helping Professionals, 98,
17. Rest Stop #6: A Quick-Release Anxiety Tool–"I Am More Than My Fear", 101,
18. Crashes and Getting Stuck in Traffic: Major Interruptions in Your Recovery Journey, 104,
19. Rest Stop #7: Feeding the Hungry Ghost–An Exercise for Responding to Depression, 115,
20. Road Rage: Understanding Anger, 121,
21. The Vehicle of Self, 139,
22. Rest Stop #8: Move With–An Exercise in Resolution, 148,
23. Driving Alone: Changes in Your Support System, 155,
24. Rest Stop #9: Sleep and the Racing Mind, 157,
25. Rest Stop #10: The Road Map of Dreams, 169,
26. Nearing Your Destination: Signs You're Getting Close, 178,
27. Ongoing Survivorship: The Worst Is Over But The Journey Isn't, 181,
28. Beyond the Mountaintops: The Journey of Death and Dying, 184,
29. Further Destinations: Matters of Spirit, 190,
30. The Wheels of Hope, 200,
31. Bon Voyage, 207,
About the Author, 219,