Stressors and significant events affect us all. Sometimes we let those events define us and craft our identity. But what if we were able to see those incidents as understandable, manageable, and meaningful? What if they could be a part of our story but not the wholeness of who we are? What if we had held the power to remember those memories at will when we deemed it time to remember, instead of engaging in the haunting task of trying to force those memories to be silent?

The temptation is so close at hand to define things as fully bad or fully good, to discount the positives, or to see things as black or white. With these strict rules of cognitive organization, we are not able to process events for what they are and there many facets. We need to achieve such maturational growth of seeing the good and the bad, the pros and the cons, the strengths and the growing edges. We may pride ourselves in our incredible wisdom and insight as it relates to other people, yet our own weakness can lie in separating ourselves enough from a situation to see it with the same skill that we offer other people. This can be done! Sometimes we see this perspective better in hindsight, yet with skill we can begin to apply it to our present lives.

The art and skill of unearthing the good from the bad can be enduring. It may initially feel as though we are devaluing the atrocities and traumas that we faced. Anger, blame, and resentment can feel so powerful, tempting us to exert the hidden energy that is required to maintain such strong feelings. It may feel contradictory to set aside such a powerful tool without knowing what we will replace it with. In releasing anger, blame, and resentment, you may then be able to see from another person’s perspective, identify the opportunities for growth, find the meaning and purpose, understand the greater story, uncover hidden nuances, use your story to help others in similar situations, or appreciate how the impacting changes lead your life to where it is now.

And there becomes the irony of how what was intended as bad becomes good.

We may even be so lucky to express gratitude for the life struggles that we once wished we could change.

Learning to create meaning is a courageous and vulnerable skill that comes easier with practice and also easier with age. Creating meaning gives hope. It allows us make sense of what traumas we have just survived. It connects our experiences, goals, ability, and identity. It can give us energy to persist. It can be the glue the keeps us from coming undone.

We can begin to create meaning through the practice of telling our story, writing, journaling, collage, art, poetry, or song. Expression allows us to practice and organize our story. We can name our stress, experiences, and emotions. As we practice and organize our story, we blend it into our timeline of events, cataloging the memories with the rest of who we are, giving ourselves permission to access the thoughts as we deem necessary, and allowing ourselves the freedom to find beauty from the ashes.