By Alexa Bailey, MSW, LMSW

Let’s face it: in the middle of a pandemic, going to school online or in person or a hybrid of the two, and social distancing/quarantine restrictions keeping people apart, it would seem that there’s a whole lot of bitterness for us to feel. And, honestly, it can often seem like bitterness is the only thing we can feel. Whether it’s the current social pressures or our own personal difficulties, that question of “why me?” is one we all have found ourselves uttering at times. This response is fairly typical and can come naturally. But it doesn’t have to be that way.

From the moment we are born to the day we die, we take in so much information from the world around us, and we attempt to find meaning from it. From an evolutionary perspective, we have had to learn how to handle danger and difficulty in a productive way that keeps us safe, for survival. While we are no longer fleeing from wild animals like our prehistoric friends, we do have our own dangers, both real and perceived, that take hold in our brains and can cause those same protective feelings to jump into action. It can seem like we are doing ourselves a favor by being overly cautious, or pessimistic, or even indifferent, to preventatively keep ourselves from “danger”. But that can lead us to the unproductive line of questioning that gives away our sense of control.

When faced with stress and worry, we question, “why did this happen to me?”,  and it would seem that we can find a long list of reasons that prove to us why we deserved a bad thing, or that we just have really, really bad luck. But what if we asked instead, “why is this happening for me”? In doing this, we are given the chance to move through our experiences looking for the opportunity that’s hidden within the obstacle. If we are looking for obstacles, we will certainly find them. And perhaps we think we are doing this to keep ourselves “safe” from perceived dangers like embarrassment, or blame, or disappointment. However, if we are instead looking for the opportunities, we can find them, too.

This is not to say that we deny or diminish our feelings, but rather that we need to validate those feelings in a healthy way. If you’ve ever been told to just get over something, or just look for the positives, you know how disheartening that can feel. Taking ownership of an experience should never diminish your authentic emotional expression but should validate it in a way that allows you to be empowered to say to you