This is going to be sort of a heavy post. But first, I want to share one of my favorite birthday gifts– my super cool new yoga sweatshirt. Thanks, Ina!
Okay, now onto the guts of today’s post.
I’ve spoken to multiple people recently who’ve been in situations of trauma or suffering, and have explained to me that they comfort themselves by remembering that “everything happens for a reason.” That statement has never been comforting to me, and, in some ways, it’s even frustrating. It’s empty and convoluted, and it communicates a hopeless and complacent way of looking at negativity in our lives.
When trauma or suffering happens in our lives, we look to make sense of the things which are ailing us. “Everything happens for a reason” is a way to comfort ourselves– a way to get a partial grasp on something confusing and seemingly intangible. In my experience, placing this sort of “purpose” can distort our views and take us even farther on the truth. Here’s why:
“Everything happens for a reason” can be interpreted two ways: the “reason” is either external, suggesting that some all-powerful force is behind our suffering, or the “reason” is internal, meaning we believe we are the sources of our own suffering. If you believe some divine/otherworldly being is behind your suffering, you create the illusion that you are powerless in your own situation, and that the force in control in your life wishes you harm. Is there really a cruel god, or even a cruel universe, puppeteering us– causing young mothers to die of cancer, causing situations like mine, where we have to withdraw from happy lives for reasons of pain or trauma? I see this as extremely unlikely. When you hear hooves, you should think horses, not zebras or unicorns. The simplest answer is usually the right one. If you have cancer, it’s likely because a cancerous growth attacked your immune system and causes abnormal cell reproduction. It’s less likely that happened because the cruel god of cancer wanted to punish you for not spending more time with your family.
If we don’t externalize, we internalize– you tell yourself “I asked for the pain. It’s punishment for something I did wrong.” It’s natural to self-blame, especially in situations of illness or abuse. You think “I caused my symptoms because my lifestyle isn’t adequate. I stress too much, I don’t eat right or exercise enough, etc.” We look for the causes that are closest to our control– our own actions. It’s the clichéd abusive relationship scheme, where the victim of abuse blames him/herself for warranting the abuse. Obsviously, this way of thinking is flawed, and not at all conducive to healing.
I don’t believe “everything happens for a reason” because of the fallacious perceptions this type of self-comfort causes. However, people are not created to be sick, or to suffer. Therefore, I do believe there is some reason at the center of the illness. The reason is the world, the abuse, the abuser, the strange elements of life that were twisted to send you into an unnatural and unpleasant situation. There is nothing comforting about the cause or reason for suffering. The true comfort comes from the outcome of the illness or ailment– the way you decide to continue, and the positivity and wisdon you’re able to gain from the situation. None of this is predestined or external. It’s all individual, and comes from your personal choices in handling your battle. You empower yourself through movement and self-confidence, not self-blame or hopelessness. So, yes, everything happens for a reason…but not really.