This week is a solemn week. In addition to it being National Suicide Prevention Week, it is also the anniversary of the senseless terrorist attacks of 9-11. As I have reflected on these events, it became abundantly clear what myth would be most helpful to debunk this time. And that myth is this: that events can define your life.
I, in NO way, am seeking to dismiss the pain and anguish associated with tragic events. Everyone in this life, myself included, has and will experience painful events. That pain is real. However, it is not the events themselves that define your life, but your reaction to them. And, there is real power in being able to recognize that you have a control over your reactions. That means when your toddler throws a tantrum in the grocery store, you don’t have to throw a tantrum in the isle as well. It means when you realize that you have been ghosted in a budding relationship that you were really hopeful would develop, you don’t become a ghost yourself and swear off dating. That means when you have been a victim of any form of abuse whether it be emotional abuse, sexual abuse, physical abuse or even neglect, that does not define you.
In fact, your reactions to events can and will change. You can probably see this for yourself in the difference to your reactions to anniversaries or reminders of painful experiences. When you process your feelings from tragic and painful events, your emotions toward that event change. It doesn’t mean that the pain is always completely gone, but it no longer carries the same weight. It takes on a new meaning as your reaction to those events changes.
You always have a choice, even if it is the choice of your attitude. You can choose your reactions and you can choose to change your reactions. Events do not define you. Psychiatrist and Holocaust survivor, Viktor Frankl, says it best: “Between stimulus [or the event], there is a space…in that space is our power to choose our response. In our response, lies our growth and our freedom.