November 2017

From Trauma to Success

It is no less than tragic that those who have endured trauma or significant tragedy are viewed as damaged or weak, incapable to do what they once did. It is often as if they have become less human as a result of their challenging experiences. Luckily, research turns this myth on its head by revealing that people who have faced great adversity are surprisingly stronger and better prepared for many life challenges!

Dr. Steve Taylor, Psychology lecturer at Leeds Beckett University and author of Out of the Darkness, explains the phenomenon known as “post traumatic growth” (originally coined by psychologist Richard Tedeschi). This exciting hypothesis suggests that people experience positive life changes and newly discovered strengths after traumatic life experiences, such as serious illness, house fire, combat, and divorce.

The idea focuses on one’s perspective. Do you view yourself as the hero or victim? Are you a survivor or do you see yourself as defeated? Do you continuously ask yourself why this happened to you, or do you focus your mind on overcoming what happened? These questions steer one’s overall view of an experience; if steered in the right direction, the past will no longer determine the future.

Dr. Taylor states that turmoil can often lead one into a transformation and, if one allows it, through suffering one can reach a deeper level of awareness. Suffering can deepen us and help us gain important benefits. These benefits can manifest in keener compassion for others (especially their suffering), newly discovered skills, a greater appreciation and passion for life, and so on.

This growth doesn’t come easy, of course; it requires work to accept what happened and to focus on how experience has made you stronger – not what it took from you. Some people reflexively pivot to this positive state of mind without external influence, and without the help of family and other support systems. Others may need a little help. Park Ridge Psychological services can help meet you where you are and help you get to a place of acceptance, strength and inner peace.

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The Magic of Failure

No one wants to fail; even admitting failure can be painful. What if we stopped looking at failure as necessarily negative? Instead of viewing failure as the barrier, we must see our failures as building blocks, with which you can choose to build your staircase to success.

Ask yourself: how can you possibility be good at something right off the bat? Excellence is almost always gained through experience. Experience comes through practice – you must take time to learn and understand tasks before you proceed to competence. After a while and with enough experience, you can achieve mastery. Even masters make mistakes, from which they gain awareness and insight and, if reflected upon and learned from, then you can finally reach excellence.

Every successful inventor experiences their fair share of trial and error before they created something incredible. With every error, they gain knowledge about their craft. Instead of doubting themselves, they continue trying because you only truly fail if you give up. When failure arrives, it takes a little work to avoid getting caught up in disappointment. This brings attention to the falls that occur while we attempt to build our staircase to success and how to develop the positive perspective about failure (as it occurs).

Dr. Julie Exline, a Professor in the Department of Psychological Sciences at Case Western Reserve University, explains that when the falls do happen, we must be graceful. After a failure, what are you going to choose to remember? The lessons learned from failures or how you felt embarrassed and defeated during the occurrence?

There is no down side to failure as long as you learn from it and do not repeat your mistakes. If you do not learn from your mistakes – how can you not keep repeating them? With every lesson, you fail a little less until you reach your goal; that is the process and there is no way of getting around it – no matter what anyone tells you.

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Are you obsessed with blaming someone else for your misery?

Blaming someone else for your unhappiness represents one of the most destructive things you can do to yourself. Blame is an immature choice that pushes a cycle of self-perpetuated victimization. When you ruminate about a person or event that made you angry, eventually that unresolved, built-up anger will devolve to resentment.

Resentment builds bitterness, which can and will overtake your ability to be happy. Unless you change your perspective you will become chronically angry and in a state of perpetual dissatisfaction with your life.

Dr. Leon F. Seltzer, who holds a doctorate in both English and Psychology and authored The Vision of Melville and Conrad and his blog Evolution of Self, enumerated some of the costs associated with an extended stay in Bittertown:

  • Your mental and emotional pain will last longer.
  • The cycle of “getting even” will further isolate you.
  • Dwelling on the past wrongs will keep you from being presents to today’s joys.
  • Thoughts of distrust will become paranoid thinking.
  • Loss of connection with others.
  • Your personal search for purpose will be negatively impacted.
  • Your psychic health will suffer (e.g., insomnia, high blood pressure, stress from chronic anger overload).
  • You become blind to your own wrongdoings.
  • Your sense of wellbeing will become defaced.

The solution: take responsibility for your life. Take responsibility for the life that is a direct result of actions you have made. Even if someone played a destructive or painful role in your life, it’s time to move on and be a part of changing your life for the better. Realize you cannot control the behavior of anyone but yourself.

Making the choice to move forward can come only after honest self-reflection. Understand why you feel resentful towards someone, then view it from a different perspective or angle. And finally forgiveness, of course, is the key to long term happiness. Once you can truly let go and visualize yourself no longer having negative resentful feelings, you will become free and at peace.

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