Depending on the stage you are in coming to terms with your disability, you may find this offensive, but please have a look at this page to understand how you can work on healing to get the most out of your job search in a three stage approach.
The Silver Lining
It was difficult deciding when to address this, because it's a sensitive subject, and it may offend some people. But it's not my conclusion after all, so I suppose I shouldn't be hesitant, and decided to put it up front here.
The first few times I heard people tell me this, I thought it was interesting. By the 100th time, I figured there was some lesson to be learned here, perhaps an intimation of some great truth, that warranted putting it in writing. So here it is.
"Dan, I would never knowingly wish this disability on myself, but in retrospect I have to say there have been some good things that came from it. Some important things. There has been a silver lining to this cloud."
In so many words, that's the common theme. From there, they branch off into different particulars. Some say they've become more patient, some more understanding of people with certain traits. Some feel they've got their values and priorities in line for the first time.
Some have learned to cherish and enjoy seemingly small pleasures in life that previously they weren't aware of. Some discovered an emotional side to themselves, or a depth of understanding, that they didn't know existed.
Where it gets really interesting, and where some people might get offended, is when they comment on the meaning of this event within the overall perspective of their lives. What it comes down to is this.
They've come to the conclusion, or they already knew, they say, that life is to be lived as a learning and growing experience, and so the disability was an opportunity to do some learning and growing.
Further, they generally believe that at some level, they accepted this challenge so it could teach them something or bring them a more mature outlook on life. Depending on their religious persuasion or lack of it, they might refer to their subconscious, or Divine Providence, or the powers that be, or God, or the Universe, or the Good Lord, or their Oversoul, but the point remains the same.
They have accepted the challenge, the reasoning goes, and it is up to them to make the most of it. Now I hope never to have to address that issue firsthand as they have ..... probably wouldn't have the courage.
I'm quick to tell them that I'm happy to learn my lessons in this life as an observer, learning from others' suffering as they relate their hard-won wisdom to me. It's usually good for a chuckle when I repeat my philosophy on that, a line borrowed from a favorite author, "Suffering is only good for the soul if it teaches you how to stop suffering."
The client who probably believed most fervently in the Silver Lining, Dave B, had been a partner in a public relations firm in the southeast, who had suffered a stroke at the height of a successful career. I remember the phone call when he joked about it being a "stroke of good luck."
As he put it, the stroke had forced some changes in relationships which were good for all concerned, and he had a new appreciation for the "spiritual" side of life that he hadn't even been aware of previously. He got an enjoyment out of helping other people now, that was unmatched by the joy of his business achievements.
When last I spoke with him, some of the effects of the stroke were still evident, but they weren't slowing him down. He was touring his favorite parts of the country, checking out businesses to purchase that would suit his new priorities.
There are some interesting implications to the Silver Lining perspective that people like Dave adopt. It certainly puts them in control of the situation. And if the lesson has been learned, as one of them told me, they no longer have any need for the disease. They can let go of it, and eventually its symptoms may leave also.
I happen to admire that belief structure, but whether you do or not, you've got to admit, it certainly serves the believer quite well in terms of inspiring hope, and maintaining a positive outlook.
Which brings you to the obvious question. What's the alternative to the Silver Lining perspective? I could be missing something here, but it seems the alternative would be to see yourself as a victim, laid low by chance, with no apparent rhyme or reason for the illness or accident striking you instead of the next guy.
That could be very tough to live with. It's easy to understand how someone could become quite bitter with that belief system. "Why me?" And never a really good answer, day after day, year after year.
Other than the fact that the Silver Lining perspective seems to work well for a lot of people, I make no value judgments. It's presented here as an interesting perspective.
I remember though, years ago, when a young medical doctor with intense headaches expressed her absolute rage at "some new age people" who tried to tell her that she was "creating her own reality." "As if I don't feel horrible enough about this already," she said, "the thought that I'm doing it to myself would make me feel guilty and drive me insane."
She was the one suffering the intense daily pain of headaches, not her "new age" acquaintances, and no comforting thoughts for her came readily to mind. As much as I like the perspective of the Silver Lining, I don't think she would have appreciated it. It's easy to understand her perspective.
Who knows, you or I might have the same reaction, having to put up with that kind of pain. Few people are tested that drastically. Fortunately, most of the people I deal with, unlike that doctor, are well enough to function in some kind of work, and are motivated to do so.
For them, there is another framework that often proves helpful. The name that's evolved for it is a Healing Framework split into three steps.
The Three-Stage Healing Framework
Even for people who are very motivated to return to meaningful productive activity, one very significant obstacle is the feeling that the time since the onset of their disability has been wasted time, time that has been lost and can never be regained.
Fortunately this just isn't so. It may appear to be so, if you look only at surface events. But there is a healing perspective I read about years ago (I have almost no original ideas) in a book by a woman named Meredith Lady Young-Sowers, that I found applied to many of my clients.
When I share it with new clients, it often makes a lot of sense to them, and helps them shift their focus ... away from the frustration of "wasted time" ... to the anticipation of exploring new opportunities.
This perspective looks at the entire time from their disability to their getting back into a productive and fulfilling life, as a healing process with three stages. The first stage is not one where the person immediately goes out and starts knocking on the world's door, expecting to get into action right away.
Stage 1 - Making The Internal Adjustments
Instead, it is essentially an internal process. There is a lot of internal work done here, as the person gradually gets adjusted to a dramatically new set of circumstances, and tries to regain some equilibrium and get their balance, so to speak, as new roles, new limitations, and new ground rules for daily existence are thrust upon them.
This is hard work, and the person who comes through it without being defeated, with a determination to get back to meaningful and rewarding daily activity, can be very proud indeed of this achievement. It's really the phase where the challenge is the greatest, where the most work is done, and the most progress made.
Those who come through it intact are truly survivors. The fact that the work is primarily internal, rather than external, does not detract from its significance.
As soon as people realize this has been true in their own case, they understand that they knew it all along. It just took someone else's saying it for them, to acknowledge openly what they already knew internally.
When they do acknowledge it, they are often immediately freed from the energy-consuming focus on having "wasted all this time." They understand instead that they have successfully met one of life's greatest challenges.
They don't even have to think about it. It's as though a little explosion goes off. They are filled with excitement, anticipation, and a new surge of energy. As one person put it, he was suddenly "galvanized into action." A great burden is lifted from their shoulders, as they realize that all along, getting rid of the burden was as easy as simply putting it down.
The realization dawns, "Hey, I haven't been wasting time, I've been doing great things. Let's get on with it !! "
For some people this first stage can take only a matter of weeks. For others, it's a matter of months. And for quite a few, it can take years. There are no rules about the "right amount of time," but people know when it's time.
Their frustration and anxiety start to grow. They start to think more and more about how they're going to "get back into action," and what they might find to do that will be appealing and rewarding.
Even when they know that getting back into action may result in their eventually having a lot less security than they have on disability payments, their need to live what they consider a meaningful life outweighs those concerns.
They're willing to take the risk. Fortunately, most disability policies have provisions that can help minimize that risk, and make it a very calculated one indeed.
Stage 2 - Finding Something To Get Excited About
It is usually when people are coming to the end of this first stage that I get involved. They are ready for the second stage, which is finding something to get excited about. When people find a direction they can get excited about, it unleashes their positive energies. They can then focus all their actions on attaining a goal that they feel is worthwhile.
They begin to see their actions as no longer fractionated, without a consistent purpose. Instead, they start to feel a steady surge of well-directed energy, like a laser beam going after a specific target with a tremendous amount of concentrated power.
For people who've been on disability for a while, it can be a particularly tough challenge to find something to get excited about, and we'll touch shortly on one approach that's helpful for moving them through this stage.
Stage 3 - Opening Up To The World In A Mutual Give-and-Take
The third stage in this healing framework is opening up to the world in a mutual give-and-take effort aimed at reaching the goal. The person continues to give to others whenever possible, but also learns to receive graciously from others, letting them help in the effort and thereby enjoy the good feelings that come from being a giver.
This mutual interchange of positive energies in the give-and-take is what completes the healing, both on the spiritual and physical levels. So it is not reaching the goal itself, but the process of getting there, that completes the healing.
For what it's worth, about 90% of my clients turn out to be people who have always been givers, and have no problems with that role, but have never learned to be gracious receivers.
When they begin to realize how much others gain when they are allowed to be givers, they understand that they've been cutting off half the energy flow that is natural among humans, and they gain greater appreciation for the natural healing effects of a smooth, two-way flow of that energy.
And the timing is quite fortunate for learning that lesson. Whenever you are attempting to get a job or start a business that is different from what you've done before, you can use all the help that might come your way. This third stage usually unfolds according to an action plan that we figure out up front, so that the person gets the feeling of a systematic buildup of momentum, with no wasted motion.
The client who reacted most dramatically to experiencing the two-way flow of energy in the third stage was Paul T, who lived in the Boston area. Paul had an excellent record of achievement in materials management and inventory control, when he suffered a stroke that left him with almost no mobility, and many other functions severely impaired.
In addition to his full-time job, Paul had also been a part-time entertainer in the evenings and on weekends, performing an outstanding one-man show as a singer and musician who impersonated Neil Diamond and Elvis. He was so good that he raised ,000 for a charity in just four shows on consecutive evenings.
Among his many fine qualities, Paul was very determined, and he surprised a lot of people by walking out of the hospital when a number of medical professionals had told him he'd probably spend the rest of his life maneuvering from a wheelchair. When I met him, he was dragging a leg, and one arm drooped, but he was walking.
We agreed to start a job search for a materials management position. I emphasized how important it would be for him to open himself up and let others help him, knowing it would be difficult for him. He had always been strong and independent, the classic giver who still had to learn how to be a gracious receiver.
He responded beautifully, and kept himself open to receiving assistance from many sources. He enjoyed the process, especially as he saw how pleased others were when they could help him.
The job search was turning up opportunities, and while he hadn't gotten an offer yet, he was building momentum. So much so, that he confided to me he wanted to start singing again to audiences, and he showed me some pages he had written about his experiences.
I was impressed with his writing and his singing, and encouraged him to continue with both. His story had the potential to inspire a lot of people. The point was also made that his singing could entertain others and give him a lot of joy at the same time. That was all the encouragement Paul needed.
Within a few months he was putting on a one-hour show for stroke and accident victims in area hospitals and other recovery facilities. A major TV station in Boston found out about him and featured him on their "Hero" series. The resulting publicity led to his singing the national anthem before 30,000 people at Fenway Park in Boston.
He completed his inspirational book, and a local civic group is sponsoring the printing of it, for distribution to anyone in the area who has suffered a stroke or has limited mobility as a result of an accident.
Financially, from an insuror's point of view, Paul's case is not ideal. He may or may not find another job in materials handling. He'd like to. He came in #2 for a very good job about the time he appeared at Fenway. But from the perspective of helping someone regain a positive spirit, the insuror can count this as an unqualified success.
Paul is the first to tell you, the mutual exchange of energy in giving and receiving has lifted his life to a new level. The feelings he gets from giving his performances, and from letting others help him as he does, are so rejuvenating to his spirit that he knows this is one of the things he was meant to do in life.