Note: if you’re new to my work, the linked content in the next paragraph provides some relevant background.

So, you’ve downloaded my boundary-setting roadmap and used it in conjunction with this post on courage to set some strong boundaries with someone you must engage with. You’ve also read the post or even bought the 7-day email course on self-care practices that will help you get calm and grounded after engaging with a challenging person or situation.

But while setting boundaries and staying calm and centered are important, things don’t end there.

There’s an opportunity waiting for you within this narcissistic relationship (or any other) muck, and you have a choice: do you uncover it, learn from it, and even use it as a catalyst for profound personal transformation and growth? Or, do you not?

There’s zero shame in choosing the latter. This shit is rough and mentally and spiritually draining, and whether you have the energy or desire to dive deeper into the muck is your business alone.

But for me, I’m thirsty for growth, for transforming hardships into gold. Not that I want to struggle or anything (I swear I’m not a masochist!). But the fact is that if I have to struggle, I want something to come from it – I don’t want to suffer in vain.

And so, I seek out the opportunity hiding in the muck.

Here are some examples:

  • When I was sued for custody of my daughter, I uncovered the opportunity to develop unconditional forgiveness and compassion. This seriously changed my life on so many levels, and now I’m grateful that I was able to transform a hell-on-earth experience into such an incredible gift.
  • When I nearly died by suicide after being depressed for 10 years, I uncovered the opportunity to stop being a victim of my life and instead began creating the life that I wanted.
  • When I lost my jobs – TWO OF THEM! – I uncovered the opportunity to build up my own business that was far more meaningful to me than working for Corporate America. Note that I squandered both opportunities, but that’s a separate issue (and another opportunity, lol).

And so, I challenge you to consider what opportunities are hiding beneath the muck you’re currently facing.

Now, none of this is to imply that you should try to find opportunities in something shitty. There are no shoulds. It’s just that in my experience, life generally improves when I do this work. So, I do it because I want the result; I don’t do it because I should.

Another important caveat is that without careful discernment, this work can result in us taking ownership of muck that we don’t even own. And that can be damaging.

Case in point. I was raped while I was sleeping by the national campaign coordinator of a prominent environmental organization back in 1999. I was a college student and the executive director of a student organization at Purdue University, and I had gone to Washington D.C. on a forest protection lobbying trip. The rape occurred at an after party at the much-older guy’s apartment.

Years later I was doing an inventory with my sponsor/mentor about all of the shitty things that had happened to me in my life, and one of the columns in my inventory sheet was where I identified my part in those shitty experiences. So, I listed all of the ways I had played a role in getting raped the way I had. Yep, I’ve been a product of rape culture…you know, where I told myself that I should have left earlier, not drank, not smoked weed, not fallen asleep, recognized that he wouldn’t take no for an answer…all that BS that we do to blame the victim and protect the perp.

In other words, I blamed myself for a rapist’s actions, and the opportunity I sought was identifying how I could prevent getting raped again.

Anyway, I will never forget the look in her eyes – and how her voice quivered – when she told me that getting raped was not my fault and that I had no role to play in it. Mic drop moment.

So what’s my point?

My point is that I’m suggesting you both seek out the gift that’s buried in the muck and not spiritually bypass the muck or take ownership for crap that doesn’t belong to you.

So how do you uncover the opportunities buried in your muck?

You start by adopting a curious attitude. You start asking yourself questions, like what is there for you to learn from this struggle?

You keep things about you and what there is for you to uncover so that you can grow from the experience. You don’t focus on “them” or the situation.

Maybe they did all sorts of terrible, horrific things to you. Maybe things that no human should ever have to endure. Maybe your situation is incredibly stressful.

I’m a firm believer that grieving’s important; that spiritually bypassing things serves no one and doesn’t give you brownie points anywhere except possibly at one of those pricey Abraham-Hicks talks.

But there comes a point where you’ve grieved what you need to grieve and you’re ready to find the gift in your struggle. Or, at least you’re ready to stop suffering.

By getting curious, you become receptive to uncovering the opportunities in your struggles so that you can thrive, despite life’s curveballs.

Here are my favorite resources for working through the muck:

  • Coaching. Yes, it’s a shameless plug for my offerings, but for good reason!
  • Journaling. What gold is hiding below the surface? What opportunities does this challenge offer?
  • Doing the exercises in whichever of Martha Beck’s books resonates most strongly with you.
  • Meditating. And if you need to punch it up a bit, why not draw an oracle card?
  • Creating and honoring rituals. Some of my best answers come during my morning walk when I’m not trying to solve anything.
  • Reframing thoughts. Check out and work through – affiliate link! – Byron Katie’s book Loving What Is.

Some closing thoughts…

Difficult people and circumstances aren’t fun (this may be a gross understatement!). But, it’s your choice if you’ll grow from or become paralyzed by whatever you’re facing.

Grieve it, don’t bypass it. Don’t get all love and light or force positivity about it. This is important!

But when you’re ready (and your internal compass knows when you are!), choose to leave your suffering behind. You can!

Choose to find the gift.