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  • Writer's pictureChris Pucinischi

Three ways to meaningfully handle a difficult life situation

Many people seek counselling due to distressing thoughts, painful emotions and unhelpful behaviours interrupting their ability to enjoy life. They may experience depression, anxiety, trauma, and relationship hardships which can be overwhelming and tough. The longer we struggle with these issues, the more likely we may feel like we don’t know what to do and have no control over our lives.

In the face of these experiences, I often helped clients by introducing them to the concept that we can make three broad choices when confronted with a difficult situation. Rather than reactions, these choices can help us live a better life.

The first choice is to change the situation.

Sometimes in our attempts to survive, we struggle to find the time, energy and will to change the situation in which we suffer. Changing the situation can involve practical changes such as undertaking training or education to get a better job or pursue a new life direction that you want. It may include learning new skills needed to change how we relate to others. For example, learning anger management and assertiveness communication to express one’s needs effectively at work or home.

The second choice is to leave the situation.

Sometimes we have learnt new skills, changed workplaces, or made new friends, yet our suffering continues. Sometimes we don’t have the power or influence necessary to change a situation. In such scenarios, the best choice is often to leave the situation. A few examples include leaving a career that has consistently resulted in unemployment and dissatisfaction. Perhaps a relationship is not salvageable, or our partner is unwilling to change with us. Many people struggle to leave due to fear of change or doubting their worth or that they deserve and can achieve a better life. We may need to learn how to leave in a meaningful way that preserves our sense of worth and self-respect.

The third choice is to stay and cope with the situation.

Finally, there may be times when the previous two options are impossible. Perhaps we are too financially trapped, socially isolated, or emotionally depleted. Often, it may not be safe enough to change. The risk of changing or leaving may be too significant. In these circumstances, it can be helpful to make a clear and purposeful choice to stay and learn to cope instead of giving in to hopelessness and despair. This is, without a doubt, a very difficult choice to make. But, in doing so, we can find meaning and purpose within the painful circumstances we find ourselves. We can learn how to accept our circumstances and refocus on actions we can pursue to create the most health and resilience possible. We may focus on utilising relaxation and mindfulness skills while continuing to practice self-care.

The takeaway

As a psychologist, I help clients explore all three options to collaboratively develop an action plan to bring about real and meaningful change. Whether it is changing the situation itself, leaving the situation or changing how we cope with it, all choices can be made with meaning and purpose to enrich the life we live and improve our sense of personal value and respect. We can explore and practice any skills or techniques that make each choice more reasonable and achievable.

If you’d like some help, please get in touch with the clinic. I’d be honoured to help you make the choice that is meaningful to you. We can meet in person or online, whichever suits your lifestyle and availability best. Contact us at 03 9005 7819 or

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