Looking for a positive way to deal with things beyond our control
December 9, 2016
Every day, each of us wrestles with difficult situations that are beyond our control. From something as routine as being cut off in traffic (happens to me all the time) to something as devastating as losing a job (has happened to me more than a few times!), life is full of “bad stuff" Whether those uncontrollable bad things are large or small, the big question people have is how to effectively handle something they can’t change.
Let's start with “the story,” your interpretation of what has just happened to you. Everyone, everywhere, tells themselves some type of story in these circumstances — “I got cut off because I was driving too slow; I hate driving, I clearly don’t belong on the road,” or, “I was laid off because my boss has a personal vendetta against me; he never liked me.”
The first step in dealing with situations beyond your control is to pay close attention to what narrative you’re constructing in these situations. Things that are beyond your control are just that: beyond your control. Don’t let yourself make up a story that suggests otherwise.
For example, when dealing with a cheating partner, many people tend to tell themselves an initial story that focuses on their role in the cheater’s behavior. If your partner is cheating on you, that’s often outside of what you’re doing, but is your story, ‘It’s because I’m unlovable, because I’m not good enough, I’m not thin enough, I’m not pretty enough, I’m not wealthy or powerful enough,’?” Is this usually the truth? Of course not! It's about them! So why do we blame ourselves first?
This initial story is the first of three phases that happen in these types of moments. First up- acknowledging the emotions behind your storytelling. There’s a clear reason why it’s so important.
The first story dictates a lot about how we move forward. If we create a negative story, we end up carrying that with us, and it can spill over into other aspects of our life, or just generally bring your overall self-image/self-esteem down.
The next stage is when it’s time to get challenge yourself to dig for the truth, as opposed to hiding behind a false story for self-preservation. If a partner cheats on you, for example, you'll be dealing with a ton of emotion, so it's time to dig through that for the truth - which is usually something like "we grew apart and became different people" or "we both took the relationship for granted and didn't communicate what we needed" and NOT "I am not thin or pretty enough so he found someone who was" or "another woman seduced him and made him cheat on me."
The final phase involves creating the new ending to your story and making a change. This could be something like "the cheating happened, and what I learned is it was both our faults, and we will work together to mend the relationship OR I will find another relationship with a person who meets my needs"
The narrative you eventually build and the story you tell yourself becomes your truth, and your actions will be affected by it, so create a story with a happy/positive ending, do not blame yourself, and recognize that the things out of your control are just that.