In this post I talk about how things aren’t really “bad” or “good,” what we control, and how to become resilient through changing the things we control.

Trigger Warning: This post includes references to terminal illness, accidental death, government leaders, and rape.

how to be resilient when bad things happen

When I began this writing journey, I thought bad things just happened. I thought sometimes, no matter what you do, no matter how hard you try, bad things happen.

And when we look at what we control, this makes sense. You cannot control:

  • your genes
  • the weather
  • how other people react to you
  • history
  • race
  • culture

The list could go on.

I used to look at things like this list and use them as an excuse not to try. It would be easy to look at these factors and say, “Well, I can’t control this one enormous influencing force, so I guess it doesn’t matter what I do.” That would be easy. It also gives us comfort when something bad DOES happen. We can blame everything on these huge things outside of our control. Because bad things do happen as a result of these big uncontrollable factors… or do they?

What is a bad thing?

I’m not sure there is such a thing as a bad thing, just as I’m not sure there’s such a thing as a good thing. They may not exist.

I can hear you now, shouting at your screen or tutting:

Alexis, how the hell can you say that? Of course there are bad things! What about cancer? What about vehicular manslaughter? What about destructive government leaders?

Yes. Those things can have apparently negative consequences, although they can also have apparently positive consequences. Let’s unpack those one by one.

Cancer forces a person to confront their mortality. As such, a person (and their community) confronting cancer, may find themselves in shock and grief, but they are just as likely to fully live. Whatever choices they make, that person and community will be more interested in making the most of the time they have remaining. Isn’t this a positive impact? Isn’t it doubly so when before the person was barely engaging in life? So we can say the cancer was both good and bad, or neither.

The same goes for vehicular manslaughter. This was a wake-up call for the driver and community. It is always sad to lose a person suddenly. The lost time and potential breaks many hearts. Losing a person leaves a void in a community that can be difficult to heal. Simultaneously, perhaps the driver pushed something to a limit – either their perception, carelessness, substance use, or physical abilities. Like a pain receptor, they may have had an area of life that needed attention. Perhaps the driver will now live fully in the present moment. Maybe they will be inspired to volunteer at charities. Perhaps they will start a foundation. The community may close some loopholes in signage or laws. They may be inspired to create educational events or charities. So was this situation good or bad? It was both.

And what about government leaders? When they seemingly have zero experience and a will to destroy the institution they are meant to lead, how could this possibly be a good thing? Destruction can be bad. Sometimes things destroyed were good and served society well. Still, in order to bring in new things, space must be made. Destruction is necessary to make space. Likewise, destruction – or it’s threat – can galvanize action. People who once were silent about things, comfortable in their lives, are forced to confront a situation like this and make their voices heard. So yes, this is both good and bad… or maybe neither.

The Control You Have

Much of the above examples talk about potential good. The immediate reaction was bad, but the longterm effects are where the possibility of good or opportunity arises. But how can a person turn an immediate “bad” into a longterm “good?” This is where the control we DO have is important.

You can control exactly one thing – yourself. This means you can mitigate every single event or large uncontrollable force through the following:

  1. Acknowledge your negative reaction.
  2. Take a moment to understand your reaction – why do you feel negatively?
  3. Use this to see where the lesson or opportunity is in this situation.
  4. Take the lesson or opportunity to bring about the highest good for all involved.

Use these – it may feel awkward at first, but the more you follow the above, the easier it becomes. I know they work because I have used and continue to use these steps to transform difficult situations into opportunities that benefit me and my community.

Writing a Story of Surviving

When I was younger, I wouldn’t have said there was anything good to come out of my molestation or rape. After all, what good could come from trauma? What possibilities could come from that? Then I wrote THRIVE: HOW I BECAME A SUPERHERO and I realized not only what I did with those experiences, but what I was continuing to do. I realized I took my experiences and wrote THE ROLLINS PACK to raise issues of gender power dynamics in an accessible way. It became clear I was consciously raising my son to be a good human being who recognized the inherent worth of all those around him.  I recognized my memoir showed trauma survivors they were not alone and offered a path to hope and healing.

Since writing THRIVE, not only did my perspective on my writing change drastically, but a community of hidden survivors shared their stories with me.

Every time another person reads THRIVE, I hear stories of survival and struggles of self-acceptance. While I knew there were many women who statistically experienced sexual violence, it hadn’t sunk in what that meant in my readers, acquaintances, friends, and family. While I’m sad seeing statistics in names and faces, I am grateful my actions provided a direction for solidarity and strength.

Yes, sexual trauma is an awful, terrible, horrible thing that I would never wish on anyone ever. That said, even in those horrible moments, it is possible to find lessons and opportunities.

Resilience is based in choice.

The point is when something happens, we have a choice in how we respond. You can always see the difficulties, challenges, and despair in an event. That is one way open to you. The other option is to see what is possible, what can be created out of the situation, what will benefit you and serve the highest good of the larger community.

If you want to be resilient, if you want benefits and opportunities, then you must decide to see the world as bringing your benefits no matter what. You must decide to see the possibilities in every event, situation, and interaction. When you choose to see the possibilities, you will find more of them. Likewise, the opposite is true.

Isn’t it better to see the possibilities then?

Moving Forward

As you go through your week, take time to practice seeing the possibilities. Imagine the potential of things as they happen – what possibilities might be created even if something feels dark or difficult right now? The more you focus on seeing the possibilities, the more you will see them. As you see more positive outcomes, you are more likely to take positive actions that benefit you (which creates more situations that serve you in the long run).


Want to find out more about how I can help you transform challenges into opportunities? Fill out the contact form below!

How to Be Resilient When Bad Things Happen
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