Stress is part of life. Period. There is no way around it. It’s part of our physical reality. In fact, a certain amount of stress is necessary for healthy living and our body has natural ways of handling stress at normal levels. Without it, we would not breathe in after breathing out. Our heart wouldn’t retract after expanding. Our muscles would not harden after exercise. We would not grow emotionally through the ups and downs of life. The question is how we manage stress when it goes beyond what we perceive as normal.
Tragedy happens. Again, it’s part of life. We suffer periodic loss along with enjoying times of prosperity and abundance. We lose loved ones through death and celebrate the birth of new ones. At times Mother Nature displays her power in ways that causes both material and human loss, and at other times in beauty and magnificence that inspire awe and gratitude. Individuals out of control of their emotions murder innocent people, while others rush in to provide support, aid and unconditional love. War takes place between tribes and nations, causing massive human loss, and at other times those same tribes and nations come together in peace and cooperation. The history of the United States and Japan in the 20th century is a prime example.
In light of recent events such as the bombings in Boston and the rise of school shootings, perhaps this is an ideal time to carefully examine how we handle stress and tragedy in life, both individually and collectively.
The tragedy of 9-11
Perhaps the greatest tragedy in the destruction of the twin towers on September 11, 2001 was not just the massive loss of life and property on that otherwise incredibly beautiful morning, but the hatred, discrimination, war and ongoing loss of life, freedom and quality of life that has resulted from the way we as a people and a nation handled and continue to handle the emotions of that day.
During that week, world renown performance and personal development expert Tony Robbins was hosting a leadership conference in Hawaii. It was around 3:00 in the morning there when the planes crashed into the twin towers in New York City and pure chaos began breaking out. Robbins considered cancelling that day’s sessions, but decided, instead, to use that events in New York and Washington DC as a powerful lesson for his attendees, many of whom had just lost family, loved ones, colleagues and even entire businesses in a matter of minutes. With planes completely grounded and all flights cancelled across the country, no one would be able to get back home anyway and communication in and out of New York was limited at best. He was also well aware of the fact that some people would perceive the attack as a major tragedy while others would celebrate it as a well-deserved act of retribution.
After a brief introduction of the morning’s events, Robbins led his audience into a moment of silent reflection, followed by some of the most inspiring words I have ever heard.
Here is a transcript of his impromptu address to his emotionally charged, and I’m sure highly stressed audience, which I’m sure are as timely now as they were on the morning over eleven years ago:
It’s usually after great pain that people begin to make new choices, or begin to appreciate things they’ve begun to take for granted, like basic freedoms. This can truly serve. It’s up to us whether it does or not.
You must create a vision of something greater. See it as it is, then see it better than it is, then make it the way you now see it. That’s what a leader does. They create a vision for more.
Think about all the people right now that are laughing, and if you can, absorb all their laughter in your body. All over the earth there are people laughing right now. All over this world right now there are people kissing. Right now. All over this world. Absorb all their kisses. If you’re going to absorb all the pain, you better take up all of humanity’s love, too, because otherwise you’re not picking up balance. Because a real leader is here to serve, not their own needs, but the greater good, and so doing, their needs are met as well.
You can’t give strength to someone else unless you have it inside you. You can’t give love to someone else unless you’ve given it to yourself, and you sure can’t create an exciting life if the only time you can be excited is when there are no problems. Because if you’re waiting for a time when there are no problems, there’s no pain, and there’s no tragedy and there’s no injustice before you celebrate, then you’re never going to celebrate again as long as you live, or you’re going to have to focus only on one small part of the world.
Don’t be selective in your caring. Don’t be selective in your pain. Create gratitude now, and from that place there will be more of you to give. If you look for the good, it’s always there. What’s wrong is always available, whether you show it on the news or not; and so is what’s right.
Right now there are children being born into a world where they will be loved. Right now there are people being saved in hospitals all across this country. Right now there are lives being turned around by people who care. Everywhere in this moment life if brewing and growing and expanding all over this earth. Life always moves forward and never moves backward. Children are laughing. People are achieving.
If this were just one more event in your life, another piece of the fabric coming together to create more of you, the real you showing up, what would you decide to do? What would you decide to deal the tragedy? What decision could you make? Because in a state of certainty, you know what’s right. Not what I know. What you know. You have to make your own choices. We can all share our own point of view, but you have to make your own choices. What’s right for you to do. How can you use this? What can you remember about humanity or about yourself? What emotions are available at any moment for you?
The Crazy Eight of Emotions
I am sure Robbins was bringing to the collective minds of his attendees something he had already talked about in-depth, something pretty much every one of us experiences during times of extreme stress and tragedy — a cycle known as the “Crazy Eight” of emotions, as depicted here. Many people will experience this cycle at some level on an ongoing basis, and a tragic event or sudden loss or stressful situation will only serve to trigger a more blatant expression of these emotions. In his impromptu speech, Robbins was encouraging his people to become consciously aware of these natural emotions and turn them upside down into something much more positive and productive and pointing out that, no matter the situation, it is possible to turn something we perceive as negative into a launching pad for growth and forward movement.
What were you feeling during 9-11? What emotions did you experience after hearing of the bombings at the end of the Boston Marathon? How do you respond to extreme situations? How do you manage stress?
A more powerful way to manage stress and tragedy
In the following video from that day in Hawaii, Tony ends up bringing two men from opposing cultures and ideologies on stage to work with and demonstrate, in an incredibly powerful way, how, by becoming aware of our own emotions and the needs they are fulfilling within us, we can turn any stressful situation or tragedy into something extremely positive and something that will take us to new heights we could never have imagined.
Here’s to learning how to manage stress and tragedy in life in ways that lead to paths of peace, joy, prosperity and abundance beyond your imagination!