You can always draw a line through life and build a new life, stone by stone

Let’s just say it as it is. Sometimes life goes to hell. Someone dies, a relationship ends, you experience something traumatic, you lose your job, the economy goes to the waves, your health fails, or you struggle with depression or anxiety.

There is no point in disguising the situation, covering it up, or pretending things are better than they are. Sometimes life is downright awful.

But here’s the point: no matter what has happened to you, no matter how bad things are in your current situation, you can always draw a line through your life, saying that from now on you are fighting for the days that are left.

Because we will always have those days, no matter what hand of cards life has dealt us. No matter how unfair it is and no matter what someone has done to you, you can always say that history is history, and that the days ahead are something different. To quote the great stoic emperor: Marcus Aurelius: “Think of yourself as dead. You have lived your life. Now, take what’s left and live it properly.”

I am not trying to underestimate the seriousness of your life situation. If you know my background you will understand that I would never do anything like that. I know a lot about how awful life can be.

But that does not change the main point of this short text. Ultimately, it is up to you what you want to make of the days that are left. They may continue to be awful, or they may become something different.

You can acknowledge and accept what has happened to you so far. And then you can decide that, you can build something new from today onwards. It will not be like before, but it will be something different, and it will be something better than the alternative, which is to continue to live in the suffering.

You can think about how the suffering has changed you, how it has given you a depth few others can reflect. You can divert the pain into something positive. For example, you can help others, others in the same situation as you, those who have not come as far in dealing with their pain.

You can devote your life to something bigger than yourself. You can really do that, no matter how big the pain you are experiencing now.

For you are more than the pain. You have a core, and that core is you; your beautiful identity that no one can take away from you. It is still there, and will never disappear, no matter how painful it may feel to exist in the here and now.

It is possible to build a life that is worth something, even if it continues to hurt. It is possible to find areas to contribute within, it is possible to help others.

I remember a seminar in London where a woman went on stage. For the past ten years, she had relived a cruel rape a hundred times every day. But the hypnotist I had come to learn from, Richard Bandler, could teach her that there is an alternative, that one does not have to live through the pain over and over again, that one can focus on something else. Focus on what is good in life most of all.

How can you achieve something similar?

By practicing gratitude. By helping others. And by realizing that you are the one who makes the decision what the rest of your life is going to be like. It can be about something different than the pain.