reframing pain

The following is a story from chapter seven of The Rewired Brain. (I know, I know — it’s coming out soon, but I just couldn’t wait to share this part with you!)

Years ago, a good friend of mine became pregnant. Like most mothers, she was elated. She was proud of her changing body, excited about planning the nursery and buying cute baby things, and daydreamed of all the things she would do with her little one. A few months into her pregnancy, she underwent a genetic test. The result was shocking. The baby was diagnosed with a severe genetic abnormality.

A few years after the baby was born, my friend confided in me. While she shared how her child was nothing less than a blessing and she couldn’t imagine her life any different, she also admitted feeling disappointed when she first heard the news.

My friend offered a telling analogy based on something she had read. She said that in becoming pregnant, it was as if she was headed to Paris to live the rest of her life in a beautiful villa surrounded by lavender and olive orchards. She learned to speak French fluently. And after double-checking her packing list, she boarded a plane, excited to experience this new adventure and new life.

However, the flight seemed to take much longer than scheduled. After the plane touched down, she walked down the Jetway into an unfamiliar setting. No one spoke French. The airport signs were in a different language. Even the people looked different. She quickly realized she had landed in a strange city that was anything but Paris. No one could explain why her flight had not reached its intended destination. And no one was able to correct the problem. With no way out, my friend was stuck in a new place, alone and feeling frightened, abandoned, and betrayed.

Childhood dreams often become adult aspirations. My friend had a very successful career, but she also wanted a family. Like most little girls, she had always dreamed of becoming a mother and that had looked a certain way. As we approach adulthood, we begin to understand that uncertainty and pain abound. Our plans, our hopes, our dreams, and our world can change on a dime. In Chapter 7 of my book, I focus on how we must reframe our tragedies or we get stuck.

Metaphorically speaking, my friend acclimated to her new situation (her special child), learned a new language, and found this strange, new city more beautiful than her wildest expectations. One remarkable aspect of her reframing process is her involvement in a nonprofit advocacy organization that fights for the rights of the disabled. This woman’s new narrative empowered her Self and her family with a new perspective filled with joy, love, and meaning.

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