Monday, 2 February 2015

When Things Go Pear-Shaped

At the recent Queensland State Elections (only three days ago) the Liberal National Party's aspirations to regain office went pear shaped when there was a massive swinging vote towards the Labor Party.  While the politicians and press were expecting a slight change, no one was expecting this particular outcome, not even the Labor Party.  Now everything is Shambolic -lots of high anxiety in both parties and politicians running around like "chooks with their heads cut off".  Stress, fear and high anxiety are the order for the day - for both political parties.

We have all had moments when life has not gone to plan - when things have gone pear shaped for us too. We appear to be going alone just fine and the next minute - "wipe out" . I know how it feels.  When my first marriage ended, I was devastated. Even though things had not been going well for sometime and I knew a break up might be on the cards, it was still a shock when it happened.  It left me reeling for months afterwards as I drowned in grief and loss.  I'm sure you all have had similar moments in your lives. However, it's not always big things, traumatic events or life threatening occurrences ( car accident, bankruptcy, death of a child) that send shock waves through our lives. It can be the seemingly smaller stuff like missing out on a job promotion, a place at university or failing an exam.  You can't rank these "pear shaped events" based on severity because as humans we are all unique. Therefore the impact and how we respond to the event will be different for each and every one of us.

How Do  We Cope

With Other Peoples Life calamities
An important aspect of these "pear shaped events" is how other people respond to our distress.  I think we all have a natural defense mechanism in which we make an art from of ignoring other peoples perils.  We might offer sympathy and a token form of support but we detach ourselves from their pain and try to limit our exposure to their raw emotions.  Not because we are selfish or uncaring but as a way of self protection.  Here are some tips on how to deal with other peoples "pear shaped events".

  1. Try not to over-react. If you panic, you are likely to over whelm them with your own response and make them more upset. Calm down before talking with them.
  2. Let them know you care and will support them as best you can. Spend a little extra time with them.
  3. Assist them to get professional support if necessary.
  4.  Listen and empathize. Be supportive and non-judgmental. Allow them  the time and space to express their feelings. Respect that people deal with crises differently, even those close to you.  Be patient and kind.
  5. Respect their need for privacy and be more tolerant. Give each other space.
  6. Validate the person . Show appreciation, give hugs and offer praise.
  7. Use rituals that can reaffirm  bonds and help the healing process (e.g., leaving flowers at an accident site or organizing a memorial service).Consider planning enjoyable activities for you and your friend/family to help them refocus their attention.  Be sensitive to how you do this or you might cause tension.
  8. Reflect on Change: After some time has elapsed, focus and talk about how each person has changed or grown as a result of the experience 

With our own Pear Shaped Event
“Life is 10 percent what happens to you and 90 percent how you respond to it.” 
Charles Swindoll

  1. Release the Negative Emotion: Don't hide from your feelings.  Scream and shout - Let it all hang out - at least initially. Owing and examining your emotionally response is all part of the healing process.  Talk about it with others who have had similar experiences or seek professional support. Talking is healing.
  2. Trust that you'll be O.K no matter what Happens: You have been through difficult times before so you'll be able to do it again. Be positive about yourself and your future. 
  3. Accept the Situation: No point in getting caught up in the blame game or wallowing in self pity (not for too long anyway) as this will only keep you "treading water" after the wipe out.  Everyone knows that treating water for a long time is tiring and if you don't start to swim you'll eventually drown.  So get swimming .Work out what you can control and what things you are not able to change. Don't expect too much of yourself – everyone falls in a heap at some time. 
  4. Focus on the Lesson: Rick Warren in the "Purpose Driven Life" says that painful experiences equip us for life. It is character building. When ever we try to avoid or escape the difficulties in life, we short circuit the process, delay our growth and development . Denial and avoidance of reflecting on the these seemingly random events stunts our growth and maturation. So look for the lesson in the random event - perhaps the statement "no pain no gain"  applies to more than a gym membership after all.
  5. Stay Solution Focused: After the initial emotional response (anger, frustration, grief, fear) take stock of the situation.  What is the real problem?  How big is it really?    What actions can you make in response to the issue?  If you stay focused on problem solving and looking for a solution you will be able to develop a plan to move your life forward beyond the crisis point.
  6. Take Action: Time now to put your plan into action. Set small realistic goals to help tackle obstacles. Take one day at a time and be kind to yourself. Get as much physical activity as possible. Exercise or learn relaxation techniques or meditation in order to relax and feel rejuvenated. Give someone a hug - touching is very important

Important Note: It is very important to recognize the strengths in yourself but also recognize when you need additional support. Being able to identify your needs and get the assistance you require can help reduce distress. Recognizing the need for assistance and seeking professional support will aid in achieving recovery and the development of resilience.