Bad But No Catastrophe
You don’t have to do anything special to have bad things happen to you. For we all seem to have a build-in magnet that draws trouble to us. But, the good news is we are built to handle it.
Mind you, this coping mechanism can easily get gummed up when we leave the reaction dial up at full strength. So, when anything bad happens, instead of putting it into perspective, we see each and every event as a catastrophe.
This kind of bad amplification can significantly undermine your happiness, as wave after wave of problematic situations crashes into us. Pretty soon, our resilience takes a hit, leaving us perpetually distressed and unable to cope.
But it needn’t be so. The pioneer of Rational Emotive Therapy, Albert Ellis, observed that patients would frequently present to him overwhelmed by situations that were certainly problematic but by no means catastrophic.
Considering life this way, the vast majority of bad situations are irritating, confusing, and challenging, rather than the end of the world as we know it.
A full on barney with your teenage son or daughter is upsetting (no question). But is it a catastrophe? The supermarket has run out of your key ingredient for a special meal. Some would regard it as a disaster, when really it’s an inconvenience.
By reviewing the gravity of the problems we experience, it’s possible to avoid getting carried away by the potential drama of the situation and find ourselves better at coping.
To my mind, if someone is dying or seriously injured as a result of some tragedy then that is a major situation. Spilling breakfast over your clean clothes or dropping a plate full of your favorite dinner is not.
Which means many of us need to recalibrate our shock and awe over stuff like the state of the kitchen floor when the pets waltz through. Or, when somebody doesn’t want to treat us as kindly as we feel we deserve.
These are awkward and upsetting things. But, happily, they do not deserve a crisis meeting at the UN to resolve.
Surprising as this might seem, making a semantic shift like this really does have a dramatic impact on how well you cope. By toning down any ranting and raging to a slightly miffed sniff, we can put inconveniences back into their proper place.
Whether this applies to you or to someone you know, it’s an excellent measure to help life to feel considerably better. By developing a better bad meter, a lot of problems feel a lot less terrible. Which, when you think about it, is very good.
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