Hands up if you avoid experiences you think, or fear, will be difficult.  Both of my hands are up.

It may be the season – Fall is the season of change – or it may be that Mercury was in retrograde and the full moon only a day behind it – or it may simply be coincidence that I’ve noticed a lot of difficult encounters lately.  I’ve been involved in difficult encounters, and my friends have been in them too.

No matter what the wise men and women and gurus say about the growth potential of difficult encounters, I would rather not experience them. And yet, when I do, and when I hang in there, growth does happen. Then, when I look back on the event later on (sometimes much later on), it usually doesn’t seem as bad as I’d feared. Even more, I tend to remember the good things that happened around it, like deepening friendships and breaking open a personal closed door.

An article in Psychology Today, August 2019, How bad could it be?, looked at research on our tendency to avoid.  They discovered that sometimes people avoid difficult experiences because they misjudge how they will feel. For those who must impart negative information to a friend, it’s hard because they fear causing harm, or in being harmed.

Research, however, shows that the recipients of bad news don’t tend to react as negatively as we fear and anticipate. Even if a person is accurate in predicting how they will feel, they are most often out on how long it will last, and on the impact it will have on others.

What’s missing in our prediction? It may be that the experience is more than simply those moments of discomfort. That’s what I’m discovering – the personal growth, the excitement of getting through something hard, and the deepening friendships.


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Maryanne Nicholls is a Registered Psychotherapist.  To find out more, gain access to her weekly newsletter, meditations and programmes, sign up at www.thejoyofliving.co .



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