One of the greatest challenges of life is overcoming the emotions caused by disappointments and ‘legacy events’, that is to say, events that shock us deeply and change our lives.
The loss of a loved one, the breakup of a close relationship, a split in the family, or a major career setback: all these events are likely to create a powerful emotional jolt, which may last for years or longer.
But carrying these emotions can be more painful than the initial shock itself. Which is why it’s helpful to follow a set of practices that can help you overcome their negative effects.
Here’s a summary of the four key stages that will help manage such a shock so that the negative impact is not lasting:
Stage 1: Comprehension & Acceptance
‘Grief,’ Shakespeare once wrote, ‘makes one hour ten.’
The first stage of overcoming a disapointment or disaster is to comprehend and understand it. In this stage, our ‘map’ (how we see the world) becomes unbalanced and detached from the ‘territory’ (how the world really is).
In this stage, the brain will often go into ‘denial’, and refuse to see the world as it really is. This is often because our brains are wired to avoid pain and seek out pleasure.
Yet the path to the new and painful reality is one the brain absolutely must make. This stage need only last a few days, and the way to move onto the second stage is to embrace the new reality, with words like: ‘This has happened, there’s nothing I can do about it, I can only make the best of what I have.’ Meditation and prayer often helps rebalance the mind, as research has shown.
“What ‘s gone and what ‘s past help should be past grief.”
Stage 2: Emotion – your initial response
‘Everyone can master grief but he who has it.’ Stage One is simply a way to rebalance the mind’s percpetion. But the emotional mind still overrides the best efforts to achieve perspective.
This is where friends and family really matter. Hugs, affection and emotional support are so important to help overcome the lasting, irrational pain of remorse.
Having friends who can experience your pain as you feel it, who can truly empathise with you, curiously gives you the strength to overcome the emotions that reverberate with that pain.
Stage 3: Reason
This phase is overcoming specifically the echoes of the rational mind.
The brain is constantly at work, even as we sleep. And during any moments when it is not absorbed, it will seek out things on its own to work on. Often it will find matters of high emotional content, and set to work ‘rationalising’ why these have happened, what can be done about them, and so on.
These thoughts often repeat and repeat, and go around in circles.
When this happens with a major disappointment or grief, it’s helpful to ‘capture and critique’ as per the following example:
Echo: I lost my job because I am not good enough
Then critique, asking questions such as:
- Did I do anything wrong?
- How passionate am I (truly) about that job?
- Is there anything I could have done to fix the situation (write down each part)?
- How can I improve?
If the thought echoes again, revisit the list and see if you can add anything. If you cannot, you can discard the thought.
Following this process, your brain itself will discard the echoes, until they dim to silence.
Stage 4: Progress
The stage is now set for you to move on. This stage often overlaps with stages 2 and 3.
Having mastered the irrational and often confusing pulls and messages encountered by your mind, it’s critical that you choose to progress, and break a cycle of ‘fighting yesterday’s battles’.
A certain amount of grief and consolation is absolutely essential, but having done so, forward looking is the next stage to regaining balance.
In this stage, it’s helpful to throw yourself into your life ‘passions’ – those interests that consume and absorb you.
It’s also helpful to review your life goals in all areas of your ‘wheel of life’.
This helps you maintain balance so that you do not ‘ringfence out’ the area that brought you pain. Because of the brain’s wiring (that is ancient), it will often identify the area of pain and unconsciously seek to avoid it.
To progress, it’s important to overcome this drive, and ensure that the area of the Wheel of Life is still fully and healthily engaged.
We often think that the human being is rational, but science has shown this not to be true.
As we spend greater and greater amounts of time in the workplace, we need to be more aware of our emotional make-up, and develop the capabilities that help us manage our emotions and channel them productively.
Acquiring the skills of emotional management are as important, if not more important, towards productivity as the technical skills of doing the job itself.
Talent Technologies offers management training programmes in Thailand and South-East Asia which includes Emotional Intelligence and our soon-to-be-released Personal Change Programme.
For more details, please feel free to contact us here.
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