How to Survive a Situation You Can’t Change

On How to Cope With Controlling Parents When You Live at Home, a teenager said she hates how things are but she can’t change her family situation. These tips are for people who need help surviving things they have no control over.

Here’s part of what she said:

“Sometimes people like me, have to endure the pain and just go through life with it at least until I go to graduate school. There I will be my own person. I hate that I can’t get help, that there’s no solution. I hate that I have to be with my mom every day. I’m sorry if this sounds like a rant. I feel like when I write to someone, I feel better. No one can ever know from school or other family that we have problems at home. I always want to be seen as someone who has everything together. I like it that way. Anyways, I bet your tips can really help others. I just feel helpless stuck here.”

She’s talking about the way her mom treats her; the rest of her comment is on my article about coping with toxic relatives.

Are you trying to survive a situation you can’t change? I think we ALL are – whether it’s health issues, marriage problems, toxic work environments, rowdy neighbors, or loss.

Surviving a Situation You Can’t Change

Here’s a tip from Cheryl Strayed, author of Wild:

Know you are not alone

In Tiny Beautiful Things: Advice on Love and Life from Dear Sugar, Strayed describes her job as a youth advocate for teenagers. She worked with abused, neglected girls; her job was to help them not get pregnant, not get locked up before they graduate, and get a permanent job at Taco Bell or WalMart.

In her book, Strayed described the “ghastly, horrible, shocking, sad, merciless things” her girls repeatedly experienced. One girl’s grandpa molested her every weekend. Another girl’s mom’s boyfriend held her face under ice-cold running water outside in the back yard in November, and locked her out of the house for hours. Yet another teenage girl slept outside in a falling-down woodshed in the alley while her mother drank and raged all night long.

“I called the state’s Child Protection Services every day, and no one did one thing,” writes Strayed. “Not one person. Not one thing. Ever.”

So, Strayed tried something different:

“I told her it was not okay, that it was unacceptable, that it was illegal and that I would call and report this latest horrible thing. But I did not tell her it would stop. I did not promise that anyone would intervene. I told her it would likely go on and she’d have to survive it. That she’d have to find a way within herself to not only escape, but to transcend it, and if she wasn’t able to do that, then her whole life would be shit, forever and ever and ever. I told her that escaping would be hard, but that if she wanted to not make her mother’s life her destiny, she had to be the one to make it happen. She had to do more than hold on. She had to reach. She had to want it more than she’d ever wanted anything. She had to grab like a drowning girl for every good thing that came her way and she had to swim like f*ck away from every bad thing.”

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Learn the art of bouncing back (resilience!)

Strayed realized she couldn’t change the girls’ environments. So, she tried to teach the girls resilience. She stopped trying to change the system, stopped calling Child Protective Services, stopped fighting what could not be changed. She started trying to help the girls build resilience and internal resources so they could survive their childhoods.

Sometimes we can’t change our family, our friends, the environment, or the community. Sometimes the only thing we can change is ourselves.

Let yourself be vulnerable

Most of us have a strong urge to appear strong and like we have it all together. But, the older I get the more I learn about the value of showing our imperfections and weaknesses. This makes people like us more – not less! It makes us human and approachable and LOVABLE.

We are loved for our frailties, if we are honest and authentic. Reaching out to others and letting them see us for who we are is the only way to live a deep, fulfilling, rich life. It’s hard at first, and you may even get rejected.

But, taking risks like this is the only way to survive situations you can’t change.

I think the secret to surviving pain, hardship, and loss is to accept and flow with it. How do you accept a situation that you hate? By learning from people who are wiser and more experienced.

How to Survive a Situation You Can’t ChangeOne of my favourite authors of books about acceptance is Wayne Dyer. He wrote The Power of Intention: Learning to Co-Create Your World Your Way – which I highly recommend.

If you’re struggling with depression, read Help for Depressed Teenagers.

Your comments on surviving a situation you can’t change are welcome below. I can’t offer advice, but you may find it helpful to share your experience.


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4 thoughts on “How to Survive a Situation You Can’t Change

  • Liz


    “repent for having tried to be in charge of my life, and ask Him to take over, ” This is interesting. The thought of letting go, and letting things run their course, mindfully, its interesting. I dont belief in the christian god, or that Jesus saved us from god’s wrath or anything like that, or that there is a hell and unbaptized babies are damned, but still, that sounds somehow, interesting. I wouldn’t call it repenting, but realizing what is useless effort/struggle, or skillful effort.

  • Laurie Post author

    Thank you for your comments! Readers like you make my day, because I feel like someone out there actually reads and understands.

    I’m a Christian, and take your words to heart, makesmewonder. The pain and suffering in this world can be bitter, but the beauty and wonder is sweet. Life is bittersweet – but it’s easier if we find ways to survive situations we can’t change. For many people, this means spirituality. It works for me!


  • Shawn

    I think that accepting the situation that you are dealt with and looking at it as an opportunity rather than something that you have to overcome is the key. Every hand that you are dealt in life is and opportunity for something great!

  • Makesyouwonder

    When circumstances can’t or won’t change in our lives I think the number one thing we need to do is cry out to Jesus Christ for help. The One who made us and is in total control is the only One who can give us the grace we need to take one step at a time. I’m not saying this as if I’ve never been through anything–it comes from realizing that I will never be able to figure out the ‘why’ of the evil of this life–but I can turn in humility to my God, repent for having tried to be in charge of my life, and ask Him to take over, giving me a new heart because of what Jesus did for me on the cross by bearing the penalty for my sin and then rising from the dead for me to have eternal life with Him if I believe it did it for me.

    The pain of this world never stops till He returns and we need one another for encouragement. The one thing that gives me hope in the midst of grave injustice is that I know that I know that one day Almighty God will make things right, heal every heart who belongs to him and those who never made things right here will be be dealt with in pure justice.

    How my heart does hurt for these teens, as well for all who suffer unspeakable abuse. Thank you for your website and the time and heart you put into it.