What resilient people don’t do when life gets tough
The bottom line of cognitive behavioural therapy is that it’s not what happens to you but what you think about what is happening to you that makes all the difference.Think about why some people seem more resilient and seem more able to withstand trouble and strife in life and you’ll find that these people have ‘mental buffers’. They are adept at telling themselves ‘stories’ that help life seem more manageable. If you think in any of the following ways you are doing yourself a disservice and ensuring stress and unhappiness for yourself.
People who are more resilient and better able to cope don’t do the following:
Resilient people don’t blow a situation out of proportion. When you catastrophize, all you really do is make yourself more stressed – you don’t actually solve anything. Resilient people keep perspective and know that “this too shall pass”. They look for solutions instead of imagining the worst possible scenario. Be practical and take the emotion out of the situation.
2) Use black and white thinking
Life isn’t black and white. Thinking in terms of “all or nothing” or using words like “never” and “always” only makes a person feel more trapped and stressed. Remember that there are many ways to look at life situations so make a rule not to tell yourself that things will “always be this way” or that you will “never get what you want”. When you look back on past experiences, I am sure that you will be able to find examples where you did succeed or where life was better – never and always are irrational in terms of explaining life situations.
A resilient person knows better than to automatically assume that when things don’t go to plan, they are the ones at fault. Personalising leads to guilt and pressure to do more, please more. This will get you ‘off track’. Research has shown that when something goes wrong, an optimist is more likely to blame circumstances for the failure than to place the blame squarely upon themselves whereas people who tend to l have low self esteem and/or get anxious or depressed blame themselves for anything that goes wrong. Challenge this thinking…more often than not you will find that personalising something is not what is really going on and that the situation has very little do with you or that you have much less influence over the outcome than you thought. Outcomes rarely stem from one specific thing. More often than not they emerge from a chain reaction, a blend of circumstances.
A while back I saw a client who said to me that because she had had two bad relationships with men in a row, she now felt that all men were bad and that she should stop dating altogether. This client was over-generalising. This is a common cognitive shortcut and it helps us to make sense of the world more rapidly. This shortcut can just as easily backfire though. When we decide to believe a thought, we automatically look for examples in real life to confirm this new belief. This is known as “cognitive bias”. Beliefs change what we see in the world, what we do and how we interact with others, so it is vital to challenge and accurately assess the beliefs that we decide to ‘buy into’. Beliefs can lead to self fulfilling prophecies. When you catch yourself over-generalising, make an effort to look for examples in life that refute this belief.
I asked this client to make an effort to look for everyday of examples of “good men”. She started doing this and soon realised that she had been too quick to pigeon-hole all men. She is now in a happy committed relationship with a “good guy”.
5) Emotional Reasoning
“I feel bad/sad/mad therefore what I am thinking must be true”…incorrect! Just because we feel a certain way does not mean that we are justified in feeling that way. Emotions work on their own timetable and set of rules. Resilient people take the emotion out of the equation and try to look at the solid facts before making their minds up. Emotions are intense and can easily over power the rational brain. That is why resilient people stop and think before reacting. Once the emotion has passed, they are better able to think clearly and make level headed decisions.
6) Negative Filter
Resilient people tend to be self aware and realise when they are looking at the world through ‘negatively tinted’ glasses. There is always more than one way to look at something and negative thinking creates a black thunder cloud that won’t go away. Many people don’t realise that they even use negative filter. If you tend to use words like “but” , “can’t”, “won’t” and “don’t” you may be thinking with a negative filter. Learn to turn the negative filter off by being more objective and open minded in life. Be a critical thinker, be curious.
Avoid negative people for a while and stop watching the news and this encourages a negative filter to develop.
We are far more in control of our thoughts and beliefs than we realise. It makes sense to choose thoughts that make us feel brighter and lighter about the world than to choose negative thoughts that limit us and lead us to feel hopeless and powerless.