Resilient people acknowledge their emotions, accept responsibility for them, and learn to interpret the positive intentions of their emotions…
Accept that for the moment, the emotion you are feeling is your reality. This gives you the opportunity to take careful inventory of every feeling you encounter and move on to make a positive change.
Resilient people master their emotions through their physiology
Actually stand up; just reading is not enough. You have to experience this for yourself.
So are you up? Great!
Now stand the way you would if you were feeling depressed. Once you’ve assumed that posture, let’s take a look at what you’re doing.
Are you standing up straight? Or hunching over? (Hunched!)
Are your shoulders held back and upright or dropping forwards? (Dropping!)
Is your chest out and up or is it sinking down to the floor? (Sinking!)
Are you breathing deep from your belly, or is your breathing very shallow? (Shallow!)
Congratulations! You now know how to get yourself feeling depressed any time you want.
But in all seriousness, how easy do you think it is to snap yourself out of that state?
It can be very quick, but only if you choose to make it so!
The moment you change your physiology—let’s say you’re feeling unhappy because you’re focusing on sad memories—you break the emotional pattern of unhappiness. Try being unhappy when you have a big grin on your face. Add some jumping up and down and dancing to your favorite song, and suddenly, being unhappy is very difficult to do!
So smile! Because even if it doesn’t feel sincere, this small act can positively impact your outlook.
Resilient people consciously control meaning through focus
If you were to change the meaning you attach to the stimulus, then it’s possible that you could produce an entirely different emotion and resulting behavior. You’re the one in control here—not other people and not circumstances. The sooner you understand that, the sooner you can begin to take advantage of that control and change your life for the better.
Now you’re not going to master them overnight, and it will definitely take some practice, but by just reading this section, you’re off to a good start. Simply the awareness that you have the option to assign a variety of different meanings to any given stimuli will be tremendously helpful in analyzing and shaping your emotions.
You can think of your focus as a kind of lens through which you view your life and all of the challenges that it brings. The meaning that you assign to each event will be colored by whatever you have chosen to focus on overall. For example, if you tend to focus on being the best at everything—at work, at school, at play—you may read any challenge or shortfall as meaning that you have failed. Resulting emotions may include disappointment, frustration, anger, jealousy, or other negative emotions. The behavior resulting from your emotions is unlikely to be positive as well.
Resilient people mold their belief system
Our beliefs are so powerful, in fact, that they can impact us physically—both curing and causing sickness. Take the placebo effect, for example; some patients, when given essentially fake or ineffective medications or treatments, begin feeling better simply because they expect that the medication will make them better.
While it is possible to use this to our benefit, not all of our beliefs are productive. In fact, we each have certain beliefs that are quite disempowering. For example, some of us might believe, “I will be happy when I’m rich.” This belief is disempowering because you are teaching yourself that you need money in order to be happy. Similarly, others may believe, “I will be happy when my body is skinny” (i.e., “I believe happiness is a result of how I look”).
Beliefs like these, which put conditions on your desired emotional states (happiness, excitement, fulfillment, joy), by their very definition limit the amount of time you are able to experience that emotion. Thus, you should strive to make the conditions for achieving the desired emotional state as easy as possible:
“I will be happy when I am rich!” becomes “I am happy because I’m alive!” In this example, the condition goes from having a certain amount of money to simply being alive.
“I will be happy when my body is skinny” becomes “I will be happy when I go for a run.” In this example, the condition goes from “being skinny” to the much easier to achieve and control “go for a run.”
Resilient people understand the power of questions
Let’s take a look at a few questions that might sound familiar to you:
“Why does my boss never respect me?”
“Why is that person never on time?”
“What did I do to deserve this?”
“Why is life so unfair?”
Questions like these essentially set you up for negativity. Even though these are loaded questions that contain untrue assumptions—or presuppositions—about yourself and other people, your brain will work to find an answer that fits regardless of whether it is true.
Here’s another example: “Why am I such an idiot?” Obviously, the presupposition here is that you are, in fact, an idiot. Unfortunately, once you’ve asked yourself this question, your brain will come up with reasons to prove your idiocy.
Can you think of some of the negative, assumption-filled questions that you ask yourself on a daily basis? Are they leading you to unfair or untrue conclusions about yourself and others?
Resilient people manage their self-talk and inner movies
As you experience external events, your brain interprets those events and puts together its own internal representation. This representation becomes your reality and plays a large role in the way you react emotionally to the various events and memories you encounter.
So how will knowing this help you on your road to emotional resilience?
Well, in order to achieve emotional resilience, it’s important that you learn to take control of your internal representations—the things you see, hear, and feel inside your head.
When we experience an event, our brains create internal representations using primarily three of the five senses: visual (things you see), auditory (speech and other things you hear), and kinesthetic (things you feel physically and emotionally).
So when you find yourself in a negative emotional state (let’s say, for example, “anger”), take a close look at what’s going on inside your head. You’ll soon realize a few things:
You’re seeing an image, picture, or movie in your head that makes you angry.
You’re saying certain things to yourself that make you angry (“How could she do this to me?!” or “How dare he treat me that way?”); you may even be hearing the other person saying certain things to you that make you angry. Chances are, you’re probably repeating the hurtful words over and over.
You may even be able to “feel” the other person’s physical touch, or feel vibes or emotions they project like disrespect or arrogance. This is why people are sometimes able to say things like, “I just felt she hated me!” or “I just get a sense he doesn’t like me.”
Next, get ready for a fun change in career. You’re going to be like a movie director, because you can literally change the movie playing inside your head by changing the visual, auditory, and kinesthetic aspects.
Resilient people use future pacing to control the ABC loop
Whenever we have an emotional habit, it follows the following ABC sequence:
A = Antecedent (the stimulus)
B = Behavior
C = Consequence
Let’s take a quick look at examples from my life to help define each of these elements:
Antecedent (stimulus) = A boy in class makes fun of the size of my nose, which triggers the emotion of embarrassment, followed by anger. The pressure builds.
Behavior = The emotions I feel lead me to lunge toward the boy with my fists balled up.
Consequence = Anger disappears, and the pressure is released. I have some bruises and receive punishment from the teachers.
Are you able to change the antecedent?
For instance, if you find yourself being tempted to eat chocolate while you’re on your diet, then why not toss it out of the house? By getting rid of the antecedent, you negate or change the emotional response as well as the succeeding behavior and consequence.
What is the behavior that results from the antecedent and emotional response?
Emotion leads to behavior, but behavior also leads to emotion.
So take a moment to really think: what consequences do your emotional habits result in?