How Hitting Rock Bottom Can Make Your Life Better
“This is only rock bottom if you let it be.”
― Lauren Evers (Tweet This)
Wouldn’t it be nice if we all listened to our elders and never made any mistakes?
Life would be safe and predictable, but we would always wonder if there were more. The curiosity would kill us. We would know a theory, but never the truth about what works in life.
As the story goes, since the rebellion in the garden of Eden, humans have needed to discover things first-hand. We don’t generally accept offhand advice or other people’s versions of reality.
In fact, our brains don’t really register things until we have experienced them. Only then do they become important to us.
Throughout our personal evolution, we have experimented with various behaviors and kept the ones that get us what we want. At the simplest level, pleasure motivates us and pain deters us.
But sometimes we don’t catch on so fast.
Sometimes, the short-term pleasure of addictions and dysfunctional relationships trick us. Even more common is the survivalistic strategy of settling for an unfulfilling job so we can buy groceries and pay rent. These things get us something we need in the short-term, but in the long run, we suffer.
Sometimes we make the same mistakes over and over again. We keep hitting the bottle or dating the same kind of abusive person. Learning is not a once and done process; it involves repetition. It may be difficult to endure, but all of us make the same mistake more than once.
It doesn’t mean we are unworthy. It just means we still have more to learn.
According to evolutionary biology, it is not the species that is the strongest or most intelligent that survives, it is the one who is the most adaptable to change.
Even though it is natural for us to seek pleasure and equilibrium, sometimes comfort is the worst thing that can happen to us.
Rather than being alert and dynamic, we become lazy, complacent, and less adaptable. A cozy comfort zone can make us less responsive to the changing home, economic, and political environments that shape our lives.
Growing up in suburbia, I’ve seen a lot of people living quiet lives of comfortable desperation. You know the type: They achieved bachelor’s degrees and then settled into government jobs. Their jobs never demanded much from them. They made enough money to be comfortable and purchased the most reliable car on the market. Then they drove that car for 10 years until they traded it in for the new version that is the exact same model and color.
These people may seem successful compared to those who travel the world on a shoestring budget or get into messy relationships. But when something traumatic happens, such as a surprise divorce or health problem, they don’t know how to react. They implode.
Hitting rock bottom is scary, and it can be dangerous. You could die when you hit bottom, but if you don’t, you will never forget your lesson. Some people learn their lessons from small mistakes, or even from others’ mistakes as well.
For those of us with a high threshold for pain and a major resistance to change, hitting bottom is our only option for meaningful transformation.
Everyone’s “bottom” looks different. For some, it’s a hospital visit, a prison sentence, or an overdose, and for others, it could be a death in the family or a divorce. For me, it was a debilitating illness and a break up with my fiancee.
With my clients, I never recommend hitting rock bottom because it can be a dangerous thing. But I know that if they are unable to learn from others’ advice, life will present them with every lesson they need.
That’s right. Life has the magical ability to present you with the exact family members, partners, friends, bosses, and circumstances that will help you learn to grow.
And if you’re a hard case, it will slap you until you are awake enough to learn the needed lesson. At first you might think that life is cruel. But once the dust settles, you may actually thank life for doing this.
Your relationship with life, nature, or God can become complicated when trauma happens. You may constrict, lash out, or try to shirk the ability to respond when the injustice of abuse and violence strike your life. Even if you are unable to fathom a cosmic reason for the violence in your life, the fact is that trauma remains a real opportunity for you to grow — if you realize your vast power to react to life’s blows.
At first, biologists thought that evolutionary change happened gradually, but after looking at the fossil records of species, many have concluded that change occurs the most in rapid spurts caused by rare events.
Even though we are all searching for safety, sometimes we grow the most through traumatic events. At this point you might be thinking, “How can I experience rapid growth without danger?”
Indigenous people understood the power of trauma to induce needed change. The vision quest, sweat lodge, and psychedelic experiences under the supervision of elder shamans created a safer environment for trauma-induced growth to occur.
Today, you can still do those things. Or, visit a third world country, go skydiving, or anything that is outside of your comfort zone to achieve rapid growth. It will be difficult, outside of the norm, and downright terrifying, but it may be the best thing that’s ever happened to you.
Trauma is a guarantee in life, so you might as well get good at it.
It has the power to wake you up like no other. When you’re suffering, trauma will say, “Hey! you’re attached to that and it’s causing you pain!” or “Hey! You’ve been trying this thing for five years, and you’re going to die if you do it one more time!”
Make no mistake, trauma will wound you. But when the wound heals, it becomes your greatest gift.
It is a scar that reminds you of your lesson.
And what’s more, it becomes the lesson that you can now teach others with true confidence.
Trauma is not mere theory. Trauma, if you can learn from it, is pure transcendental knowledge.
So, if you’re currently being tossed around by the choppy waters of life, know that this is not your ill-fortune. It is merely a high-performance opportunity to learn how to swim.
And once you get that down, it won’t be long until you are skillfully surfing the seas of change and looking forward to the challenge and thrill of a bigger wave.