Have you ever had one of those days where you feel like everything is falling around you? As if the well laid plans were just swept out from underneath you and now you need to start over?
Well this month, I’ve had that very experience. It’s a jarring one, but it also offers a chance to build resilience. To become stronger than you were before and even more grateful for what you have.
As you are traveling through the experience, feeling it’s pain and confusion, all you want is for it to be over. Yet, it feels like it will literally never pass through. It’s akin to mental/emotional constipation and at any moment you feel like you may blow up at someone or thing, hopefully just metaphorically.
Then in a moment of relaxation, you feel your body without the anxiety and realize the former intensity of the pain passed. As soon as you feel it pass, you may start to wonder…wait, am I really ok? What about this, that and the other thing that was connected to that issue? What if…?
At this point you have a choice, to cling to your old belief systems about what the “what if’s” or to let go and create new belief systems that are more rational and less fatalistic.
To quote an excellent book I’ve been reading, The Guide to Rational Living, by Albert Ellis and Robert Harper:
“No matter what your past history or how your parents, colleagues and/or teachers may have disturbed you, you remain disturbed because you still believe some of the unrealistic and irrational thoughts that you originally held.
To un-disturb yourself, you must observe your self-defeating beliefs and energetically work at diffusing them.
Your understanding of how you first made yourself neurotic may help somewhat but it rarely cures you.
You can uncover the basic unrealistic ideas with which you disturb yourself and then see clearly how misleading these ideas are, then on the basis of better information and clearer thinking change the beliefs behind your disturbance.”
This is the work of coaching, whether it be self-coaching or facilitated coaching. Each time your brain starts to awfulize the results of a certain adversity and conclude that you will not be ok, you are in a trap that can only be fixed by evaluating your beliefs.
It doesn’t really matter what the adversity is. Adversities will come and go throughout your life because without the challenge of negative experiences, there would be no strength, comfort or positive experience. The juxtaposition makes the good things in life, possible to perceive and be grateful for.
The test in front of you is to look the challenge in the face, accept it and not overgeneralize it’s meaning. When we overgeneralize an adversity into meaning that it will always be “this way,” we get into trouble.
As an example, you face an adversity that you can’t lose the 30 pounds you have been trying to lose the last ten years. You find it difficult to not eat after dinner or indulge during the holidays. Then the holidays come and you fall off the wagon, indulging and gaining 2 more pounds.
At that juncture, you have a choice. You choose whether or not gaining holiday weight makes you weak and unable to ever lose weight or if it’s just one data point in time that you can overcome and grow stronger from because now you know better.
Perhaps your adversity is different, you get some tough feedback from your manager about a project you delivered. You feel the pressure of delivering a better result next time. Next time you deliver a project, it still doesn’t meet your manager’s expectations.
Once again, you are faced with a choice. Yes, you missed the goal and you got tough feedback twice. That fact is what it is. Yet, what are you making it mean? Does it mean that you will lose your job and never find employment again? Does it mean that you have no employable skills? Does it mean that you are not in the right profession?
It really doesn’t mean any of these things unless you start attaching your beliefs to this adversity.
There was an unfortunate event and it produced pain, which is uncomfortable to sit with. Whether or not you can live with the pain of that adversity is entirely due to what you make it mean.
Understanding the beliefs, you hold that create the feelings within your body, is the tricky part. This is where deep reflection and support from others comes into play.
With that said, I challenge you to pick up an emotional weight today and build your resilience. Look at your beliefs and start to delve deeper into dissolving the ones that don’t work for you. I promise the pain will only last a few moments, but the strength will develop into life-altering change.