If all we learn from painful situations is how to avoid them, then learn that lesson. The Empowering Team finds the process for not repeating painful situations, and thus growing spiritually, clearly and helpfully explained by Gary Zukav, author of Seat of the Soul, in this Oprah.com post.
Everyone wants to learn the same thing from painful situations: how to avoid repeating them. For example, when you do your best to take care of someone and then that person pushes you away, you feel unappreciated. Or when you expect to be thanked and the opposite happens. Or when someone betrays your trust: You expected honesty and instead experienced dishonesty. The list of painful situations that you can learn about yourself from is very long, and you have probably experienced many of them.
If you treat each of these experiences as a separate, freestanding, random event in your life, you will continue to be surprised by them and, eventually, become frustrated. “Why is this happening to me?” will turn into “Why is this happening to me again?”
These are good questions, but when you look outside yourself for the answers, you will not find anything of spiritual value. For example, my wife, Linda, and I once hired a manager to help us. We chose him because he was interested in what we teach, seemed capable and was excited to work with us. A year later, we discovered that he had lost a lot of the Seat of the Soul Institute’s money, left it with debts we did not know about and had stolen a laptop computer when he departed.
Of course, we learned to do a much better job of due diligence from that painful experience—checking references, verifying qualifications, researching previous work experience, etc. It was a lesson that I did not forget, but there was an even more important lesson that I learned from this painful experience.
After feeling shocked (an experience of a frightened part of my personality, which is also a not-loving part of my personality) and blaming him for my emotional pain (also an experience of a frightened part of my personality) and feeling like a victim, I discovered something completely surprising, interesting and humbling: In shame and blame—both of which are very painful to experience, provided that you do not distract yourself with drinking, eating, shopping, sex, smoking, etc.—I saw this person as someone whose intention from the beginning was to get the most for himself from our interactions, and he did.