You may have heard the saying that every cloud has a silver lining. Individuals who look for the silver lining look for good aspects of bad events. For instance, when I found out that I had developed glaucoma, I thought that if I had not gone for a vision check or my optometrist had not checked my eye pressure, I might have become blind. Decades ago, when there was no treatment for glaucoma, I would have gone blind.
In cases of trauma, looking for the silver lining is often called benefit finding. There are studies showing that it can help individuals cope with trauma.
Finding a silver lining in bad events is not easy. It requires thinking about all aspects of a bad development, including what can be learned from the event.
Heart attacks can serve as an example. They are damaging. Some people who have a heart attack think of the event as a warning. They change their health-related behaviours, including what they eat and how much they exercise, hoping to avoid a deadly recurrence. Other people who have a heart attack start to think differently about what is important in their life. They may put aside grudges or spend more time with family members or doing what they most want to do.
Looking for the silver lining in a bad event does not mean ignoring the harm caused by the event. That would not be realistic. But ignoring a silver lining is also not realistic.
Some people may object that certain events have nothing at all positive about them. These events might include losing a child or accidentally killing someone.
In those cases, a person may need creativity to find a positive aspect. Some individuals in these awful situations might find solace in trying to help others avoid the situation. They start or join an action group or they give talks about the experience. Or they donate money to an organization to help prevent the underlying problem.
After a distressing event, it may take time for a person to be able to look for something positive. That is OK.
The old adage to look for the silver lining has withstood the test of time because it makes sense and it can lead to better coping. A bit of silver makes a dark sky a little less dark.
When have you looked for the silver lining in a bad event?