I almost called this post, When the plot is a tragedy but I think that would miss the point of what I’m going after. I’m reading an extremely interesting book about the effects of divorce on children throughout their life. The book is the result of a qualitative study about divorce.

It’s amazing to hear the narrative. This post isn’t about the book though. It is about the idea of tragedy entering into our narrative. What happens when that happens?

Have you ever met someone who desperately wanted to be in a relationship but are constantly sabataging the relationships that they are in? Have you ever met someone who seems to constantly date the same person.

Often when we encounter tragedy we can become stronger. Of course, we can also develop dysfunctions that serve a function in the face of our tragedy.

Think about a person who went through an issue of security as a child. Often as an adult they will be afraid of intimacy. Sometimes, when we experience severe pain, we will make a promise to ourselves.

I’ll never be that vulnerable again!

The problem with that is that in order to get what they really want in a relationship, they will have to be that vulnerable again. So, they pursue a relationship and when it starts to get to intimate (beyond their safe point where they are almost where they promised they’d never go) they sabotage and the whole thing blows up.

I have friends who do this. What’s interesting is the plot rarely changes. The names change, but the details of the story are almost the same. So what do we do when tragedy enters our story. The answer is probably multi-layered.

  1. We admit it. I am afraid that we are trying to legislate grief out of our story. I sat with a person of color yesterday why someone else told a racist story. That’s a tragedy. It hurts. It is wrong. It affects the people who heard it. When someone you trusted betrays you, it hurts. Denying it is a recipe for disaster. It is almost guaranteeing yourself that you will not see the effects because you are denying the cause.
  2. We admit it is affecting us. This flows directly from admitting that it happened. We do not come to this place in a vacuum. We come here with millions of billions of thumbprints on us from our past experiences. They all affect us.
  3. We seek advice on how it might be affecting us. Listen to your friends. Seek professional help. Sometimes, we become so close to something that we cannot see how it is affecting us.
  4. We examine the story of our life and look for themes and patterns that we don’t like. This comes from #3. Seeing the patterns and themes of our life allows to decide if we want those themes and patterns. We can decide what type of story we want to tell. We can change the plot. It takes courage and perseverance.
  5. We make a plan for change.

We don’t have to live a tragedy. We can live an adventure that had tragedy as part of the plot.

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