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Thursday, September 24, 2009

Learning to Trust Again After a Major Setback or Loss

"We have no reason to mistrust our world for it is not against us. Has its terrors, they are our terrors; has its abysses, those abysses belong to us; our dangers at hand, we must try to love them. And if only we arrange life according to that principle which counsels us that we must always hold to the difficult, then that which now seems to us the most alien will become what we most trust and find most faithful. How should we be able to forget those ancient myths that are at the beginning of all peoples, the myths about dragons that at the last moment turn into princesses; perhaps all the dragons of our lives are princesses who are only waiting to see us once as beautiful and brave. Perhaps everything terrible is in its deepest being something helpless that wants help from us."
Rainer Maria Rilke, poet, 1934, Letters to a Young Poet

Learning to Trust Again After a Major Setback or Loss
Learning to Trust Again After a Major Setback or Loss Can Test Us
Learning to trust again after a major setback or a loss can test us in ways that we might not have ever been tested before. When we feel lost, confused, helpless, and disempowered, where do we find the courage to stand up again to face whatever challenge is before us? This is a question that we all face at one time or another. We are challenged to find ways, sometimes without even knowing how or where we'll find the personal strength, to get through the crisis and continue living our lives.

For some people, it's like walking through a dark cave, feeling the wall next to them, taking one small and unsure step at a time, not knowing where it might lead, and hoping that each step will bring them closer to the light, safety, and warmth outside the cave. Without any assurances or guarantees, they keep taking one step at a time, sometimes stopping, sometimes falling down, but getting back up again and continuing to move forward.

Sometimes life presents us with a loss or disappointment, often unexpected, catching us off guard and flat footed. It might be the breakup of a relationship, the death of a loved one, the loss of a job, the betrayal of a spouse or a friend, or a sudden accident or illness. At those times, it might feel that we will never get over the loss. We might feel that we never want to open our hearts again to feel this kind of vulnerability and pain. It might feel unfair that life goes on, time passes, other people are experiencing new joy in their lives, getting married, having children, experiencing success in their lives and we feel stuck in this place of despair.

Sometimes We Disappoint Ourselves
Sometimes we disappoint ourselves when we revert to old behavior that we thought we had overcome, only to find ourselves back again in that same place that we hoped we would never find ourselves in again. This might mean losing our temper when we thought we had overcome our problems with anger management, relapsing on alcohol or drugs after years of sobriety, picking up a cigarette after years of not smoking, choosing an unhealthy relationship again after promising ourselves and others never to do that again, or engaging in other self-sabotaging behavior. At times like this, we might feel that we can't even trust ourselves as we struggle to overcome our own inner demons.

Sometimes We Disappoint Ourselves
After a loss or a major setback, rebuilding trust in ourselves, in others, and in life in general is a process. It can feel slow and unsteady at times. Often, we might feel like we'd like to give up, abandon hope, keep our heads down, make ourselves small, and hide out somewhere. But most of the time, after a temporary retreat, we might not have that option. The father with small children whose wife died must continue to care for his children, go to work, take care of daily responsibilities and go on with life. Even though part of him really doesn't want to because he's grieving for his loss, he knows must learn to trust again that life will get better for himself and his children. The single mother who lost her job again, maybe for the third or fourth time in a row, must go out and try to find another job and trust that there's a prospective employer who will see her talent, hire her and keep her on as a valued employee. The victim of a car accident who has become disabled faces the choice of giving up or engaging and persevering in physical therapy with the hope that his health will be restored.

Remembering Challenges We Have Overcome Gives Us a Sense of Hope
Remembering Challenges We Have Overcome Gives Us a Sense of Hope
Remembering other difficult times in our lives where we've overcome personal challenges can give us a sense of hope that we can overcome whatever we're faced with now and learn to trust again. Reading and learning about what other people have done to regain trust in themselves, others and in life, can help to inspire us and give us hope. As an example, I'm thinking, in particular, of Franklin Roosevelt, who was disabled by polio during his presidency, but who persevered and, according to Eleanor Roosevelt, never gave up hope that he would overcome his illness.

You're Not Alone
You're Not Alone
It's important to realize that, even when you feel that life has dealt you a terrible blow, making you feel alienated and isolated from the rest of the world, you're not alone. Many people have gone through what you're experiencing and have come out on the other side. It's important to stay connected to supportive friends and family, and if you're still unable to see light at the end of the tunnel, to seek professional help from a licensed psychotherapist.

I'm a licensed NYC psychotherapist, hypnotherapist, EMDR and Somatic Experiencing therapist.   I work with individual adults and couples.  

I have helped many clients to learn to trust again and find hope and meaning in life.

To find out more about me, visit my website: Josephine Ferraro, LCSW - NYC Psychotherapist

To set up a consultation, call me at (212) 726-1006.

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