Wednesday, 8 August 2018

How to face a painful loss without giving up hope for the future

Free subscription to The John Vespasian Letter

No matter how hard you work or how motivated you are, bad luck is going to hit you sooner or later. Maybe someone acting negligently or mistakenly will cause your misfortune. Maybe you will become a victim of a shift in the economy, or of some random accident. Adversity just happens.

It is not easy to recover your peace of mind when life has turned dramatically for the worse. Difficult periods will test the validity of your philosophy, and rightly so. Can your convictions help you regain serenity? Are you able to face a painful loss without giving up hope for the future?

Some psychologists recommend groundless optimism as an emotional defence against adversity. If you try out their recommendation, you will see that it doesn't work for long. In fact, you will only be wasting your time.

The human mind, for as long as it remains healthy, cannot sustain beliefs that are not anchored in reality. Self-manipulation, instead of creating joy, will only lead to bitterness, errors and confusion. Stay way from fabricated emotions.

The first step

What is the first step to improve your mood when the world seems to be falling apart? My recommendation is that you should focus on reality, and on reality only. Forget about empty positivity and gratuitous cheers because they won't do you any good.

What you need to do is to look hard at your problems, analyse and measure them. In order to recover, you first need to assess the damage, and take inventory of what you have left. An analysis of your situation should allow you to identify the real trouble, the real cause behind the adversity that has hit you. The problem might be as easily to identify as some common sickness, or the loss of a job. Or it could be an exploitative relationship or a wrong career, factors that are not so easy to detect.

Whatever the affliction, it is essential that you separate the actual problem from your emotional reaction. You worrying about bankruptcy is not the same as bankruptcy itself. Make an effort to distinguish the facts from the folklore around the facts. Unless you are in jail still for a long time, or suffering from terminal illness, you can turn around most situations. Yet, you first have to size up the problem in its real proportions.

You have to stay real, reasonable, objective. Human beings possess an innate inclination to exaggerate misfortunes. Such exaggerations will frequently grow to a ridiculous extent. Our emotions, if left unchecked, will automatically magnify our problems.

The rational response

The rational response to adversity begins with reducing difficulties to their actual size. Do not be overwhelmed by seemingly unavoidable catastrophes that might occur in the future. If you can predict a problem, chances are you can do something to solve it, or at least minimize it. Force yourself to drop exaggerated concerns, so that you can concentrate exclusively on the issues at hand.

Severe sickness is destructive and unpleasant, but you might still have many years left to enjoy life. A loss of employment or reputation will reduce your current income, but nothing prevents you from giving your career a new direction. There are countless options you can explore to rebuild your finances, reputation, and social life.

To recover your peace of mind, you don't need to become artificially optimistic. What you need to do is gain true perspective. Rationality is the path to serenity, recovery, and happiness. Can you appraise your concerns realistically, look at the next decades, and muster enough strength to shrug your shoulders? Try to say "so what?" and mean it. Chances are that you still have plenty of time to do great things in life, enjoy your days, and thrive in your chosen career. Once you get rid of exaggerated emotions, you are on your way.


Image: Photograph of classical painting. Photograph taken by John Vespasian, 2016.

For more information about rational living, I refer you to my books   

Free subscription to The John Vespasian Letter

Here are the links to five audio interviews recently published: