The Gift of Challengesam
by Joyce and Barry Vissell
Do you ever wonder why challenges come into your life? Do you ever wish that your life could be smooth and simple? Do you ever want your relationship to just be easy? These are things that probably every person has thought. And yet challenges are part of our human condition here upon the earth. Why?
A very important part of life is service to others, our community and to the world. In having children we are in the act of serving 24/7. Many of us are in service through our jobs. Some volunteer. Some start nonprofit organizations. Some give money and some do inner prayer and energy work. But did you ever consider that the challenges you are now having can also be part of your service to the world?
Barry and I work in the field of personal growth and relationships. For the past 36 years we have been helping individuals to grow and couples with their relationships. We are passionate about this work. Were we born wise, mature and understanding of the ways that healthy love and relationships work? No! Did we learn all that we needed to help people through our excellent (and expensive!) educations? No! The wisdom that gives us the privilege to sit with couples in their most difficult and painful challenges came through our own challenges.
Forty years ago, seven years into our relationship and three years married, Barry had an affair with my best friend. That one act came very close to ending our relationship all together. I got to experience the utter rage of betrayal and the inability to fully trust again for a period of two years. Barry got to experience coming very close to losing me forever as well as the pain of seeing how his actions affected me. He also got to experience his need for my love for the first time. He learned patience in the two year time that it took me to fully trust him again. I learned to have better boundaries and declare a strong “NO” when something wasn’t working in our relationship. I learned about forgiveness and how to completely let go of the pain.
At this time when we were going through this most painful time in our relationship, I thought that it was such a waste of time. One day, when the pain of the affair was upon me for what seemed like the hundredth time, I sat in prayer and meditation and asked why this horrible thing had happened to me. I received a very clear answer that continues to help me today in all of my challenges. “The challenge you are working through right now IS your service to the world.” At that time I did not understand this message completely but I realized that it must be very important for me.
Now, many years later, Barry and I sit with couples who are going through the intense pain of an affair. We are able to be of service to these couples because we understand from the inside what it feels like. In some ways we have a “sub-specialty” in our work, helping people work through the pain of affairs and being able to give them guidelines, support and hope. No amount of book learning could have prepared us for this.
And other challenges as well can be of tremendous service. During our third pregnancy, Barry and I lost our baby at six months. The story in our book, Risk To Be Healed, has helped many women and couples. The experience has graced us with so much more compassion and understanding.
I know a man who felt he wasted ten years of his life as an alcoholic. He is now in recovery and has helped countless men and women also get into recovery. I also know a woman who underwent chemotherapy and surgery for breast cancer. She came very close to dying. She now uses her time to help other women with breast cancer. And the list of possibilities is endless.
What is your current challenge? Could it be that all you are now experiencing will one day be able to be of service to another? If we really knew how much our challenges had the potential to help and change our own and then another person’s life, we would be in constant gratitude for these challenges. We would be able to see them as blessings rather than bothersome challenges. “The challenge you are working through right now is your service to the world.”
Joyce & Barry Vissell, a nurse/therapist and psychiatrist couple since 1964, are counselors near Santa Cruz, CA, who are widely regarded as among the world’s top experts on conscious relationship and personal growth. They are the authors of The Shared Heart, Models of Love, Risk To Be Healed, The Heart’s Wisdom, Meant To Be, and their new book, A Mother’s Final Gift: How One Woman’s Courageous Dying Transformed Her Family.
Call Toll-Free 1-800-766-0629 (locally 831-684-2299) or write to the Shared Heart Foundation, P.O. Box 2140, Aptos, CA 95001, for free newsletter from Barry and Joyce, further information on counseling sessions by phone or in person, their books, recordings or their schedule of talks and workshops. Visit their web site at SharedHeart.org for their free monthly e-heartletter, their updated schedule, and inspiring past articles on many topics about relationship and living from the heart.