Failures at work, break ups, loss of a loved one, or a tough criticism are all a huge stepping stones on our way to self-discovery and personal growth. We hope to grow, to become better versions of ourselves each new day, yet the situations like these trump our progress and take us one step back each time. However, if we take another look into the seemingly devastating effects a certain trauma, loss or a failure has had on our lives, we may discover that there is another way out of misery, a way that will help us recover much faster and build stronger resilience in the face of adversity.
As humans, we tend to fall into one of the two categories of dealing with grief and/or trauma. We either tend to grief for a short period of time, and then manage to quickly pick ourselves up and move on with life, or tend to get stuck in the grieving period for a very long time, struggling to recover.
In order to find better ways of recovery for everyone, we first need to look closely into the causes of lessened resilience. This will help us to bounce not only back up, but even forward.
You can choose to be resilient. There is always an Option B.
Facebook’s COO, Sheryl Sandberg has gone through tremendous grief after losing her husband, and a father of her children, David. Her reaction and grieving process was similar to what most of us would feel and do given the circumstances. Overwhelmed with grief, she had a tough time even getting out of bed and taking care of her children. Thanks to the help of her friend and a psychologist at Wharton, Adam Grant, Sandberg managed to recover from loss and re build her life again. She writes about her struggle and the concrete steps she took towards building resilience in a life-changing book – Option B: Facing Adversity, Building Resilience, and Finding Joy.
As Sandberg herself discovered throughout her journey of overcoming loss and building resilience, first and foremost we need to escape the trap of the “three Ps” that a psychologist Martin Seligman termed as our response to great loss, failure, or any other life-shuttering experience.
The “three Ps” that stand in our way to recovery can be best described through a very common situation – a break up of a love relationship.
Personalization- Relating all the failure personally
The first P stands for Personalization. Once the terrible feeling of loss strikes, we tend to respond in a way that includes the belief that we are at fault. No matter what the situation was, most of us would immediately blame ourselves for the failure of the relationship.
When it comes to the first P, the Personalization, we need to take a more objective standpoint in order to break the habit of always blaming ourselves. For, example, in the break up situation, we need to realize that, in the end, it involves two people, and therefore, it can never be a one person’s fault. It is always a good idea to talk to people close to us to help us gain a more unbiased perspective.
Prevasiveness- The feeling of that 1 failure will affect all the aspects of your life
The second P is related to Pervasiveness. This is when a feeling of failure suddenly overcomes all aspects of our life, even though, in reality it is only our love life that is not going so well at the moment.
The approach is similar with Personalization. Instead of feeling sorry for ourselves and letting the negativity overshadow other aspects of our lives, we need to take a second look and start to find even the littlest things that we can appreciate about it. For example, if you have just gone through a terrible break up, you can be thankful for your friends and their great and honest support. This method will not only make you more resilient, but your friendships will get a new, more honest and supportive dimension.
Permanence- The idea of the effect of the failure will last forever
Finally, the third P stands for Permanence – the reason many of us have a feeling after each break up that we will never be happy again.
As for Permanence, even though it can be almost impossible to see the light at the end of the tunnel, when your entire life you had planned is falling apart, you can overcome it as well, with a different frame of mind. In those moments that seem to last forever you need to remember that you have gone through a similar heart break before, and you have managed to move on and love and trust again. In the end, you have learned so much from each heartbreak and you soon realized the bigger picture and how those seemingly negative moments brought you to something amazing later on. Having a perspective in tough times doesn’t always come naturally, yet once you start practicing these and similar principles, you will be able to recover much faster each next time.
Going through grief is a must. It’s hard but it doesn’t mean it’s not worth trying.
Although overcoming these and similar beliefs and responses to adversities can be quite challenging, it is worth the effort as the awards bring about not only a quicker recovery, but an entirely new and more joyful perspective that we wouldn’t have realized otherwise.
As it is our thoughts and beliefs that create the “three Ps” and trap us into believing that we cannot overcome grief and sorrow, the only way to truly avoid this is to go through each of the Ps and find a counter thought that will make us see another perspective, and will ultimately help us build resilience.
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