Negative Experiences Can Help You Grow And Set You Free

The only way to the other side of the tunnel is straight through it!

Life Coach: How Negative Experiences Can Help You Grow

I love this sculpture. Years ago, one of my friends posted it on FB and I've felt an attachment to it ever since.

As a therapist and coach, the symbolism of this "break free" sculpture speaks to the deepest part of my soul. It resonates with me for all the work I've done in my life, my own personal growth and my continued journey. And, it serves as a reminder of why I chose to help others do their necessary work to achieve their place of peace and contentedness.


Sometimes a problem, a troubling experience of our past can keep us stuck in a "bad place." Maybe we can't let go of the images or the messages that came from such experiences and as we go through life, they've become a part of us — for better or worse. When it's for the worse — it means there is healing work yet to be done.

We in the helping field distinguish between big "T" and little "t" traumas; those that were completely destructive and threatening to the life and spirit versus those that just dinged us along the way. Either way, I like to tell my clients that we all emerge from childhood traumatized because growing up is hard — as is parenting — so these battle wounds make us distinct and help to define us.


When the effects of these negative experiences leave us unhappy and struggling as adults, it means that the healing, empowerment and metamorphosis has really yet to unfold. Whether you are an avid self-help seeker or are just now starting to dig in, I wonder, have you stopped to consider, "what am I getting out of holding onto this problem?"

To me, the powerful part of this sculpture is the figure pulling himself out and away from the stuck place where he's been rooted. He is saving himself. The power of choice supersedes any circumstance, so long as you believe that to be true. If we have the power to rescue ourselves, save ourselves and to be our own hero — then why aren't we exercising these muscles more often?

Once we realize we have that power, we can triumph over anything.

The payoff


There are many times when we haven't moved through a problem because we simply aren't ready to face the truth and we aren't ready to do the work to overcome; it can be pretty intense to reconcile some of life's traumas. To those of you, I say take your time and when you are ready — you will conquer.

For those of you who are ready, have been ready and have been trying without success to move beyond a seemingly impossible hurdle, I pose this question: what purpose is it serving to have this problem in your life?

Problems such as:

  • feeling depressed or anxious much of the time
  • being stuck in a situation that causes distress
  • being caught in a behavior pattern that is self-destructive

You may feel as though you've tried everything to pull yourself out and are fatigued from the effort and have begun to wonder or accept that this is your allotment in life. But here is the thing: you've begun to identify with the problem. It is or has become a part of who you are and how you identify yourself. To give it up now means a dramatic shift you may fear making.


What are you getting out of having this problem?

According to Human Needs Psychology, there are 6 areas of human need. The need to obtain or achieve any one of these or more, drive all our behavior.

  • Love/Connection — with self and others
  • Significance — the need to feel special, important and worthy of attention
  • Variety/Uncertainty
  • Certainty — the need for stability and some sense of control in our lives
  • Growth
  • Contribution beyond the self

So peering through this one lens, think of the biggest problem you're facing and try to isolate the basic human need you are seeking.

Does having this problem help to provide you with a sense of connection to others? Do you get attention for having this problem or do you feel special because of this problem? Do you identify with others and connect with others because of this problem? Does the attention you get make you feel loved or cared for by others?


I once had a client explain to me that when she worries all the time, she feels like she is taking action or being productive in keep the problem from occurring. This is seeking certainty or significance.

Once you can isolate the need you are trying to fill, it is much easier to create movement away from the problem and into a healthier and more productive place in achieving this need.

And after you identify what is underneath this problem for you, you may realize it has been insulating you from dealing with something much more important. Facing our emotions, history and reality can sometimes be frightening or overwhelming.


The metaphor I like to use is that instead of going through a long, dark tunnel, we often try to go around it to get to the other side. Unfortunately, we never get to the other side and have now created a secondary problem that is perceived to be much easier to deal with than the original problem. We then spend all of our time trying to lose 50 pounds or quit drinking instead of trying to solve the original problem.

The only way to the other side of the tunnel is straight through it!

Once you decide that you are really ready to move past the problem and you are ready to journey through the tunnel, just know that you never have to make the journey alone. Grab a trusted friend, therapist or life partner. Grab your flashlight and other handy tools. By getting really honest with yourself about the journey, the need you've unconsciously been seeking to fill may just end up overflowing.