27 Nov 4 more ways to build grit and resilience
Happiness requires grit.
Happiness requires resilience.
Happiness requires the ability to bounce back from unhappiness…
via Eric Barker
“I quit” is rarely said flatly. Whether it’s said to yourself or others, it’s usually “I QUIT!” or “Ugh. I quit…” (cue *sad trombone*).
And that’s because quitting is rarely done at the height of rational deliberation. It’s usually based on feelings in the moment. You feel fear, anger, anxiety, impatience or frustration and then suddenly you snap and it’s time to call it a day. We talk about grit and other global perspectives on resilience but the minutiae of actually coping with intense negative feelings in the moment is often left vague. And that sucks because it’s usually the hardest part.
We’ve discussed how to deal with problematic thoughts, but that’s just the warmup before the championship match. Negative feelings are much more powerful, harder to question and very difficult to disentangle your mind from. We identify with our emotions so readily. “I feel it, so it must be true” is often our default setting. The whole rational deliberation part gets skipped. Feelings are summary judgment. We usually don’t even second guess them, and even if we do, they often simply overwhelm us.
You can sometimes ignore the Chatty Cathy in the back of your skull criticizing your every action, but feelings grab you by the throat. Literally. Anger, panic or grief can make you feel like you can’t breathe. Heart going like a piston, about to explode out of your chest, and you’re asking yourself, “Oh, this is what a heart attack feels like…” Instead of persisting with our goals, we quit, procrastinate or do whatever the feeling dictates to escape the discomfort. It’s a literal form of “emotional blackmail.” But we need to stay in the game when things get hard.
Often, resilience is associated with being tough and rigid. But that’s not gonna get you very far with feelings. We’re not trying to be invulnerable. That’s impossible. We’re going to be flexible. You cannot avoid or resist all pain in life. You’d have to have a head full of prions to believe that. But we can live with our discomfort better. We can manage it and have a better relationship with it.
So how do we do that?
We’re gonna turn to one of the leading, research-backed mindfulness tools out there: Acceptance and Commitment Therapy. We’ll draw from five different books on the subject (Get Out of Your Mind and Into Your Life, Acceptance and Commitment Therapy, A Liberated Mind, The Confidence Gap, and ACT Made Simple) because:
- Feelings are tricky
- I am, apparently, a masochist.
Let’s get to it…
The Bizarro World Paradox Of Feelings
Why do we have such trouble dealing with feelings? Because the problem-solving rules that work for the normal world don’t apply here.
Normally, when a problem comes up we can always avoid it, deny it, or kill it. But feelings are inside that closed system called your mind which has a different rulebook.
If I told you, ‘Vacuum the floor or I’ll shoot you,’ you’d immediately start vacuuming the floor. If I said, ‘Paint the house or I’ll shoot,’ you’d soon be painting. That’s how the world outside the skin works. But if I simply say, ‘Relax, or I’ll shoot you,’ not only would the directive not work, but it would have the opposite effect.
Trying to deliberately control your brain with your brain can be an M.C. Escher-on-shrooms-level nightmare.
From A Liberated Mind:
…in order to get rid of something deliberately, we have to focus on it. If we are working to get rid of something, we need to check to see if it’s gone. When we do that with internal events laid down by our own history, such as memories, we have now reminded ourselves of the events connected with these memories yet again. When we do this with echoes of the past, we increase their centrality and build out the history we have with them.
Any attempt at suppression only amplifies the difficulty. So we avoid, procrastinate or quit which has disastrous effects on long-term goals and happiness. And that means you’re not in control of your life anymore. You’re not doing or achieving what is meaningful to you. Life is no longer a pursuit of happiness and fulfillment, it’s a pursuit of whatever is not-pain.
There is an inherent paradox in attempting to avoid, suppress, or eliminate unwanted private experiences in that often such attempts lead to an upsurge in the frequency and intensity of the experiences to be avoided (Wenzlaff & Wegner, 2000). Since most distressing content by definition is not subject to voluntary behavioral regulation, the client is left with only one main strategy: emotional and behavioral avoidance. The long-term result is that the person’s life space begins to shrink, avoided situations multiply and fester, avoided thoughts and feelings become more overwhelming, and the ability to get into the present moment and enjoy life gradually withers.
Some people might say they can suppress feelings. Yeah, you’re correct. You can. But research shows you can’t suppress the bad without also suppressing the good. If you want your life to be as numb as your mouth during dental work, by all means, go ahead.
So how do we control our negative feelings? Easy answer:
Control is the problem, not the solution. Any rigid attempt to resist negative feelings won’t work in the Willy Wonka land of emotions. The only way to win the tug of war with feelings is to drop the rope. We must go from avoidance to acceptance.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: acceptance does not mean caving and giving in. You don’t have to like, agree with or obey the feelings. But you can’t ignore, avoid or fight them. Acceptance means allowing them to unfold without judgment, resistance or compliance.
Acceptance, as we mean it, is the voluntary adoption of an intentionally open, receptive, flexible, and nonjudgmental posture with respect to moment-to-moment experience. Acceptance is supported by a “willingness” to make contact with distressing private experiences or situations, events, or interactions that will likely trigger them.
If you wait until you feel good to do what is important, you may be waiting the rest of your life. (In fact, research shows this is exactly why procrastination happens.) To escape the finger trap puzzle you don’t pull out, you have to push in. In fact, studies show the ability to accept negative emotions has bigger benefits than job satisfaction or emotional intelligence.
People who are more emotionally willing to experience negative emotional experiences enjoy better mental health and do better at work over time. The effect is significantly greater than the effects of job satisfaction or emotional intelligence (Bond and Bunce 2003; Donaldson and Bond 2004).
Some might complain that if we can’t change feelings and all we do is accept them, we’ll be trapped in a world of hurt. Nope. Because after we accept, we expand. We can’t diminish the feeling voluntarily, but we can expand our attention to give us greater perspective and dilute its influence. A tablespoon of salt in a glass of water tastes awful; a tablespoon of salt in a swimming pool isn’t even detectable.
(To learn more about how you can lead a successful life, check out my bestselling book here.)
Okay, all this sounds fine but how do we do it?
We’re gonna “name it and tame it.” NAME is an acronym, by the way: Notice, Acknowledge, Make Space, and Expand. Let’s get started…
…keep reading the full & original article HERE