I recently read an article, She Tells Her Grandma That She’s Just Been Cheated On So Grandma Tells Her to Do This. It is a quick and thought provoking piece; I recommend the read.
As the title suggests, the piece is about a girl who is cheated on by her boyfriend. The story got me thinking about adversity in general.
There are some people who are quickly dismissed as being immune to adversity. You know the type – too beautiful, too rich, too popular, too smart, too you fill in the blank to have faced any real difficulty in their life. I must have missed the chapter in my psychopathology book that discussed the gene that makes some people resistant to pain and suffering.
These too whatever populations do not have herd immunity. As far as I am concerned, by a certain age it is unlikely to select any person who hasn’t faced, or isn’t facing some type of adversity; experiencing some type of situational or chronic stressor that keeps them anxious or depressed on some level. On my list of pet peeves are people who are so self-absorbed that they become blind in identifying the mere possibility of another’s anguish. Thus, commit microaggressions towards others when they dismiss them as too whatever to be suffering from any type of issue, big or small.
As a therapist, I choose to devote my life’s work to helping others successfully navigate through their own pain, lack of insight, understanding and coping skills. A general rule of my practice: do not rule anyone out as being invulnerable to anything. Every person has a story. It is true that some are darker than others, but the experience of human emotion is ubiquitous despite subjective rating scales. It does not matter why someone feels shame, guilt, regret, inadequacy… the list goes on… it only matters that they are experiencing an emotion that is causing sustained distress. And, this is when they come to my office.
So, back to how the article inspired my own personal introspection. To sum up the article, when the granddaughter tells her grandmother that she has been dumped and doesn’t know how she can possible get over it, the grandmother tells her to, in three separate pots, boil an egg, carrots and coffee beans. The grandmother reveals that the meaning of the exercise was to show the granddaughter that each item faced the same adversity: boiling water, but that all three emerged differently. The carrot entered strong, but wilted and became soft; the egg began delicate and fluid, but emerged hardened; and, the coffee beans… the coffee beans changed the water. The grandmother concludes, “Which are you? When adversity knocks on your door, how do you respond? Are you a carrot, an egg or coffee beans?”
Without entering into the nature vs. nurture debate, it is difficult to argue that our experiences don’t shape us; and, I immediately began scanning mine. Which am I? What does the “heat” do to me? Am I the carrot, the egg or the coffee beans? I concluded that, on differing occasions, I have emerged from the boiling pot [adversity] as all three. Some experiences have softened me, some have hardened me, and some, I have chosen to change the environment. I next began to think about the generalization of this fable. Do we learn from being the carrot and the egg so that someday we become the coffee beans? Or, do some people’s hardships keep them stuck as the carrot or the egg? And, if so, how do I help them become the coffee beans so that they can live a happier and more fulfilling life? We all have impacts on our environments, but how can we ensure that ours is rich, full of flavor and catalyzes joy and positive change for ourselves and on our environments?
More reflection and I begin to think that we are not born coffee beans, we become them based on a foundation of strong personal identity, self-esteem, and self-awareness and insight.
Where are you in your journey to becoming coffee beans?