Learning How To Live A New Life

By Barton Goldsmith Tribune News Service.

When you have been through a life-altering experience or a trauma that it has drastically changed your circumstances, learning to live differently can be a real challenge, but a healing one.

Death, divorce, an empty nest and misfortune can hit any of us at any time. And how we handle it is up to us. We can either let ourselves be pushed around by life and some of the people in it, or not. You have to make a commitment to embrace the rebuilding process. Once you have truly owned a new direction, it will be much easier to achieve.

Every soldier who's been wounded or emotionally scarred in battle has to learn to live life differently, and ordinary life has its own set of battles. Most of us have ended relationships or lost jobs we thought we'd have forever. When this happens, you may need to reinvent yourself or your world.

In the beginning, there is confusion. You question what you were meant to do and perhaps you question some of the people in your life. Rediscovering yourself can take time, and getting the process started is truly the hardest part. But for now, just do one thing at a time, even if that means just doing one thing each day. Slow starts are not bad, and they also can give you a stronger foundation.

I tell many people who are learning to lead new lives that a big part of getting there is to just do what is in front of you.

Pay your bills, clean your kitchen, walk the dog, and take care of yourself. Just keeping your mind focused on the simple tasks will help you move ahead. What you will find is that, in between getting relatively easy things done, you will take on more challenging and life-enhancing projects.

Starting simple is something to be proud of: Even though you may feel like you are taking only baby steps, the truth is that you are making a new life for yourself. And although it will take some time, you are not starting from square one. Your friends will support you and give you ideas for your next moves. The more people you involve, the better you will feel and the quicker you will get completed. This emotional support can keep you from going into a tailspin when you start to think about what happened to your old life. Once you are firmly on the path of recovery, you just start to feel better, and the desire to create this new existence becomes more powerful than the pain that inspired it.

When you are feeling low, the idea of beginning again can turn your stomach. The only thing worse is to let things be as they are. Knowing that you can change your circumstances by just putting one foot in front of the other can be very empowering. ___ (Dr. Barton Goldsmith, a psychotherapist in Westlake Village, Calif., is the author of "The Happy Couple: How to Make Happiness a Habit One Little Loving Thing at a Time.")

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