“When we least expect it, life sets us a challenge to test our courage and willingness to change; at such a moment, there is no point in pretending that nothing has happened or in saying that we are not yet ready. The challenge will not wait.”
Paulo Coelho (Author, The Alchemist)
“The brick walls are not there to keep us out. The brick walls are there to give us a chance to show how badly we want something.”
Randy Pausch (Author, The Last Lecture)
“Adversity introduces a man to himself.”
Albert Einstein (Nobel Laureate, Theoretical Physics)
My best friend and ex-girlfriend started slow dancing to Lady In Red.
Everyone in my high school circled around them and watched.
I felt like throwing up.
The senior prom DJ had asked all the girls wearing a red dress to come to the middle of the dance floor with their dates and for everyone else to circle around them while he played the song.
My ex was the only one in red.
She was wearing the dress she bought 6 months ago and said she was going to wear to prom with me. Then…
We broke up and she started dating my best friend.
Then we got back together. Then we broke up again. On and on it went for most of the Spring semester.
Now we were here at the senior prom with different people. And my best friend wasn’t my best friend anymore.
Suddenly, You’re Stag At Prom
I ended up going to prom with a friend and her friends who I barely knew.
Her friends were all dating college guys. The kind of college guys that still dated high school girls.
As soon as I showed up to dinner before the dance, one of them asked me to chip in for beer money.
I said, “Um, I don’t have any money. I’m in high school.”
He snorted and said okay.
Thirty minutes after showing up to the dance, the college guys wanted to leave. They’d arranged some kind of after party at a cheap hotel.
They took their dates and left. My date went with them.
I stayed. Stag.
Then the Lady In Red incident happened. Then I left.
It wasn’t the best evening.
I spent the next few weeks replaying what happened over and over again and feeling sorry for myself. My grades started to suffer and I spent less time with my friends.
A couple of months later, I put what happened in its place and moved past it.
Then I came back to it and started using it to my advantage.
3 Techniques For Refocusing Your Life After Pain
Decide to use negative events to your advantage.
The two most common ways for people to regulate their emotions are reappraisal (changing the way you think about an emotional event) and suppression (changing the way you respond behaviorally to an emotional event).
Both methods are better than complaining or sinking into a pit of despair.
Both methods involve change.
Studies show that reappraisal has more short-term and long-term benefits than suppression.
A review in the Journal of Personality discusses a variety of experiments demonstrating that people who cognitively reappraise emotional situations function better socially, have a better sense of their overall wellbeing, and make better decisions moving forward.
They also have better emotional profiles later in life.
The best way to reappraise a negative situation is to see yourself as the master of your problems rather than as the victim.
Your problems are at your disposal.
You can think about them, learn from them, and respond to them in any way you choose.
When something bad happens to you, change the way you interpret it.
Instead of complaining or feeling sorry for yourself, focus on the result (not yourself) and find a way to learn from it as quickly as possible. Then…
Find a way to use it to your advantage.
When it comes to negative results, avoid permanent and personal thinking. In this way you will own your mistakes without owning them forever.
Here are 3 cognitive reappraisal techniques to refocus your life after someone or something causes you emotional pain…
1. Come back to your pain and dominate it.
Don’t move past your pain forever.
Come back to it.
Sit with it. Own it. Dominate it.
Pain is a very powerful motivator and if you’re not using it to your advantage, you’re missing out.
As soon as your mind feels pain, whether it’s physical or emotional, it will take action to relieve it.
There are only two ways to relieve pain, evasion or transformation.
Evasion is what most people do.
They evade reality by distracting themselves with gossip, meaningless drama, and useless information.
Or, they drink and smoke themselves into a stupor every night and watch the same 10 movies over and over again.
Transformation, on the other hand, is the process of using that pain as motivation to reap more benefits faster.
Here’s a simple example…
If you get hurt in a relationship, you can either manage your pain by closing yourself off emotionally, or you can use the pain to initiate interpersonal growth.
The key is to reappraise the situation and approach it from an I’m going to get something out of this standpoint.
Positive transformation is the only way to use pain to your advantage.
2. Blame yourself, not others for your pain.
You’re not responsible for all of the pain you experience in life, but you are responsible for how you handle it.
When someone hurts you, it’s easy to obsess over how they bad are. He’s a narcissist. She’s selfish. They all have personality disorders.
If you’re thinking like this, the only one with a personality disorder is you.
Stop thinking that bad things only happen to you. Stop thinking that bad things should never happen to you.
The truth is bad things happen to everyone and bad things are supposed to happen to you.
You’re being tested for a reason.
Adversity is the fastest way to grow. It’s the shortest distance between the life you want and the life you have now.
No one is to blame for you feeling pain in response to the obstacles you face except you.
You can’t be forced to feel pain.
Pain is a personal decision. When you feel pain, you’re choosing to feel it.
You can’t stop bad things from happening to you, but you can limit how much these things hurt you.
Stay disciplined in your reactions. Refuse to blame other people for your unhappiness and lack of success. Refuse to blame them for all the pain you’re experiencing in life.
Instead, blame yourself.
Put yourself in the driver’s seat. Take control of how you feel by taking responsibility for your own pain.
3. Make your pain part of an empowering story.
Think of the last fictional movie you watched.
Think of the main characters.
Were they happy all the time? Were their lives problem-free throughout the entire movie?
No, of course not.
If they were, you wouldn’t have watched the movie. The movie would have been too boring and unrealistic to enjoy.
Now, think of your own life. Consider a time in your past when you achieved something—when you had a problem and you overcame it successfully.
What happened next?
Did you stay satisfied forever? No, you went out and created new problems.
You decided you wanted something else and started taking action towards it. Then—surprise—you found out that this new thing you wanted came with its own problems.
Stop acting surprised by the fact that you have problems. You’re always going to have problems.
It’s unrealistic for you to think you should never have pain.
Life is pain. The key is to turn the pain you experience into growth.
Choose your pain.
Seek out challenges that cause you pain but reward you with rapid progress. Take the reigns of the pain you experience in life.
Make it so you experience pain in the form of productive adversity, not baseless agony.
In this way, you can make pain part of your own heroic life story, instead of turning it into a monster that destroys your life.
There is no way of completely avoiding pain in life. People and situations are going to hurt you. Obstacles are going to come against you. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that you shouldn’t experience pain. Don’t hide from pain or pretend like it doesn’t exist. Move past your pain. Then come back to it and own it. Take responsibility for how you handle painful experiences and then leverage the experience to your advantage. Make every negative situation that happens to you a part of your own empowering story.
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