Maybe it’s true, that the strongest hearts have the most scars.
And maybe the pain and the discomfort we experience in life can serve as a great teacher, if we choose to see it that way.
Everyone has bumps, bruises, and pains in life, right?
Things happen that are outside our control, and it’s up to each one of us to decide how these experiences shape us.
There are those who endure incredible trauma and pain and choose to use those experiences to see life differently. They learn from it, grow, and move on.
And there are also those that go through horrible pain and don’t have strong hearts. They have broken hearts that just stay broken.
What’s the key difference between those who are able to find meaning from their hardships and move on and those who don’t?
“Sometimes fear is nothing more than the anxiety leading up to an event.”
So I have a fear of flying. Ok, maybe that’s not entirely true. It’s not the FLYING I hate, it’s everything leading up to it. The same thing applies to stage fright. Every single moment leading to being on stage is filled with enormous fear, anxiety, and the like. But the moment I am on stage, the fears subside and I am calm again. For some of us, fear is nothing more than anxiety that leads up to an event. We don’t necessarily fear the event itself, but everything leading up to it. In that case, we aren’t afraid of the event, we’re simply trapped in a mental state OF fear.
So what do we do about this? Assuming that the fear is nearly absolved when the event begins, then surviving the fearful ride leading up to the event is simply a matter of time. Take comfort in knowing that as the seconds pass, you are actually getting closer to the fear vanishing. Each passing moment is one step closer to freedom from the fear and anxiety. This can bring comfort to some of us.
For others, surviving this period can happen if you distract yourself. Read a book, watch a movie, clean, write, do whatever it takes to take your mind off the subject of the fear. Once the event happens and you’re forced into the situation, you will ‘autopilot’ in some cases, and in others you will simply excel. Therefore distracting yourself could be a viable alternative because you combat fear with something else that interests you, until that fear has a chance to go away on its own.
Perhaps the best approach is a mix of both, added with simple acceptance of your fear. Admit that the fear is there. Acknowledge its presence. Maybe have a little bit of fun trying to figure out some possible causes of the fear (“When was the first time I flew? Was I afraid then? What could have changed to trigger this fear?” etc..). Sometimes simply naming the presence of fear can be a huge first step toward conquering it.
At the end of the day, fear is a natural human reaction. While many of us have strange bouts with fear or anxiety, it can be a fleeting thing. It’s important to hold it together just for the time you need to. Because like most things in life, “this too shall pass…”
“After an argument, compassionately admit any mistakes.”
There is no denying that no matter how much you love a person (friend, family member), you will inevitably get into a conflict with them about something. Conflict in of itself is not inherently bad. How each party reacts to the conflict can become the driving factor in whether it is positive, or negative. That said, sometimes a conflict/argument will happen anyway which can place some tension on the relationship. Assuming that the relationship is important to you, there is one step that can be taken post-argument that will hopefully begin the healing process: an apology.
Granted, after an argument, emotions may be high, pride doubly so. The LAST thing we want to do after the raw conflict is to admit some form of weakness. We’ve felt attacked, we’ve felt vulnerable, and perhaps we cannot understand the other side’s perspective. But pride is a horrible thing to have between loved ones.
Even if you may still stand firmly by your position, an apology about the tone of the conflict can be helpful. Maybe you said things in the heat of the moment you didnt mean. Maybe you raised your voice. Maybe you wish you had handled the conflict differently. By expressing these thoughts in a compassionate apology, you extend an olive branch that will hopefully diffuse the tension and start the path of mending any damage that can be done.
It’s very rare that in an argument ONE party is entirely in the wrong, and the other in the right. Even if that is the case, there is always room for improvement, and taking a moment to express what went wrong, how you hope to correct it in the future, how you hope to deal with it in the future, or even how you wish you had handled the argument, is always a good idea. Odds are, by taking the first step and extending the first olive branch, the same could be returned to you and both parties can not only heal, but begin to move on.
“Sell a bad past experience to yourself with a positive spin.”
Life wouldn’t be complete without a few negative experiences to rattle our cages. Many times, this negative experience can come from expecting something, and finding to your dismay that things did not go as expected. It could be something completely surprising. Whatever it is, the optimism that may have existed before the experience may be momentarily shattered and you may question why you did what you did to begin with.
But like most experiences, how we perceive them is critical. Our natural state when something bad happens is to feel bad. Rather than obsess over what went wrong, take a few moments and try to ‘sell’ yourself the same experience, but with a positive spin.
Before you can begin, ask yourself the following questions:
1. Did I expect anything going in?
2. How did what happened differ from those expectations?
3. What is something I can learn from this experience?
4. How can I better manage my expectations next time?
5. Knowing what I know now, how would I react to this next time? How would I handle it differently?
6. If I could put aside my immediate emotions, how would I have handled this?
7. If I were a third party observer, what recommendations could I make to myself?
8. What about this experience bothers me the most, and why?
9. Is there anything in this experience that in 20 years will not matter, or will seem funny?
Take a moment to breathe in and out, and try to smile. After answering these questions, there should be some ‘gain’ visible. Maybe you’ve learned something new. Maybe looking back on the experience from a future perspective leads to some amusing reactions.
As a final step, ask yourself the following:
“If I knew what would have happened before it happened, how could I spin the situation so that I still go through with it?” Salespeople are excellent at selling us things we don’t need. This bad experience can be discouraging when it happens, and perhaps even more so shortly thereafter. In the long run, it may seem like nothing, or it may be a point in life that we reflect on with regret.
In the short term, this exercise is about flexing that salesperson mentality, finding the good, accepting the situation, learning, and moving on. It is a much better solution than obsessing over what happened, discouraging ourselves completely, or suffering a fracture in our confidence. In the long term, this exercise aims to remove that element of regret that may continue to haunt us, and instead give us a valuable lesson learned, or something amusing to look back on and laugh.
When you think about it, many of the experiences we have seem like the ‘worst thing in the world’ in the moment, but are almost laughable in 20 years. With this positive spin on things, you can take something good from a bad experience and ensure that you share a laugh with yourself, or a lesson learned with others later on.
In this case, you aren’t selling yourself something you don’t need, but giving yourself something you may sorely need…optimism.
“Combat internal negativity with external productiveness.”
Often throughout the day, we engage in dialogue with our thoughts and emotions without knowing them. We internalize what happens to us from the outside and process things in that way. Sometimes, in this processing, we may hit negativity. It could be as simple as obsessing with a mistake, or wishing you had done something differently, or finding yourself thinking repeatedly about it, and finding your attitude shifting from the positive to the negative. Some examples can include: “I wish I had said something else.” OR “I don’t think I can do this.”
The voice of this ‘internal critic’ can haunt you throughout your daily tasks, and can even become an obsession where you cannot think about anything else. When this happens, I have encouraged “Acceptance” and “Moving on”. But how exactly do you “Move on”? One strategy I’ve found in combating internal negativity is to distract yourself with external productiveness. Feeling bad about yourself or something that happened? Convert that psychological energy into focus by giving yourself to a task. It could be carrying on with a project, clearing your desk, going for a walk.
The beauty of external productiveness is that it can be ANYTHING, as long as you focus on it. Work and play can often provide distractions from our lives, and sometimes that distraction can be healthy to combat the negative voice of the critic. When all is said and done, it can give you the distance you need to reflect on what happened when timing, energy, and emotional state are more appropriate, and in the meantime, it can give you something to aspire towards, AND be productive in a way that you can be proud of later on.
Like most things, this is easier said than done. But being able to ‘shift tracks’ is a skill that can be acquired through time and practice. Why not start now?
Reflect or Distract Yourself – Psychology Today
“Take some space to reorient yourself.”
Conflicts are inevitable. As humans, we will come across a conflict no matter where we are, or who we are with. Not all conflict is bad, and there is much to be gained and learned from a conflict, and about the person you are interacting with. But its important to be able to recognize when a conflict is not going anywhere, and be able to pull out temporarily to recharge, recover, before it spirals into destruction.
This is where taking some space is critical. Sometimes a change in scenery, the removal of the element that is ‘threatening’ you (likely the person you are in conflict with), is all you need to come back to the table with a clear and logical mind. Whether we are aware of it or not, when we are thrust into an interpersonal conflict with someone, we will get defensive (if we didn’t, odds are it wouldn’t really be a conflict). Getting defensive triggers our fight/flight mechanisms, and that’s where emotions (like anger, fear etc) can play a big part. It is at this point that the conflict can become destructive, and personal blows dealt. It is at this point where the two sides are unable to ‘listen’ and ‘hear’ one another, despite their best efforts. At this stage, there is little to be gained from continuing the conflict, and a little break is a good idea.
Take a step back. Very politely tell the person that you just need a few minutes (or more depending on the circumstance) to think and reflect and regain your composure. If they insist on resolving the conflict immediately, you have to try to acknowledge that resolving the conflict IS important to you, but you just need some time to think about everything that has been said. Most importantly, you have to mean it and stay true to your word that you WILL return to resolve the conflict.
Taking a step back allows your mind to feel less threatened, clear up your mind, and allow the very chaotic emotions to become a bit more organized. In short, it diffuses the tension that prevents a healthy resolution of the conflict. Once you have unwound, ask if the other person has had a chance to unwind as well. If they have, it may be the time to come back to the drawing board, and find a solution.
Taking a break is a lesson not only in respect for yourself, and the other person, but respect for the situation and your relationship as well. The key is being able to know yourself well enough to feel when you need a break, taking the break/space to calm down, and then returning again with a fresh mind.
“Consider whether its time to vent.”
When something goes wrong, it’s natural to want to vent to someone else. As social creatures, we enjoy sharing our joys, hopes, and dreams with one another…and sometimes we seek out sympathy from others for our troubles. But recently I’ve been wondering if venting for the purpose of venting is really a good idea. Sure, it helps us reflect and externalize any internal thoughts or concerns we may have, but it can also drag us back into the mud instead of helping us move on.
I’ve found that if you’ve already processed or reflected on what went wrong and have moved on, maybe it would be best not to vent. Venting can take you back to the point when things went wrong, and rather than helping you move forward, it can drag you backwards unintentionally. We vent, and sometimes in doing so we end up triggering the very emotions that we felt shortly after something went wrong.
When we vent, we don’t usually seek advice. In fact, if you’ve ever wanted to just vent and someone offers their advice (“Here’s what I think you should do…”), the reaction is almost always defensive in nature because we feel we aren’t being listened to. Venting isn’t something that needs fixing, its something that needs ‘doing’, and as good natured our friends may be in offering some advice, we may simply not be receptive to it.
Venting can be very healthy however, but perhaps there should be a bit more consideration on what the purpose of venting is before venting actually begins. Is it to generate sympathy? Is it to help you understand what happened? Is it to let off some steam? Depending on the purpose, venting may or may not be a good idea.
Recently, I’ve realized that once I’ve already reflected on something that I previously wanted to vent about, venting later on has a negative effect because it only triggers the same frustrations that I had supposedly moved on from. Emotions can be very addictive, and the act of constantly venting can help feed and enable that addiction.
So the next time you want to vent, take one small step back and ask yourself WHY you are venting, and whether venting will help or hinder you from moving on. Sometimes you may even have to begin venting before you realize exactly what positive or negative effect it has on you. If you do decide to vent, give whoever is listening a heads up that the point is just to vent. It can help them better help you in the situation as well.