I’ve got lots of research and practices and strategies that can help us become more aware and live healthier, happier lives. But really, it comes down to how well you cope when the crap comes down. The people who do well in this life, are those you learn to manage adversity.
Because it’s gonna happen, right?
We are going to face pain and adversity and people who don’t like our hair. One time or another someone is going to be mean and hurt our feelings and not want to be our friend. And all this will feel icky and painful. And all of this will be part of our experience, because we are human and life is like that.
But instead of letting that worry you, know this: You are capable of handling anything that comes your way. Okay, okay. You may not LOOVVE it. But still you can deal. You’ve got all the tools to do it and the biggest one is your curiosity.
How to Cope with the Drama
There are lots of ways to handle the ups and downs of life. A few of my favorites? Gratitude, solitude – anyone for a timeout? – mediation.
But the VERY BEST way to handle the drama of the moment – whether that moment includes clueless husbands or yapping kids or the clerk who closes the line right in front of you, or an insecure boss who insults you in front of the co-workers, a doctor who keeps you waiting, an abusive mother, angry ex, or the client who doesn’t pay – is to get curious.
Now, stop that. Do not roll your eyes. I know. It sounds silly, but I am totally serious here. During intense moments curiosity keeps you from being sucked into the emotion and it allows you to remain clear-headed. Instead of freaking out, then, or rising to the anger or being bowled over by hurt you will manage the moment with a kind of detached awareness and THAT will help you choose appropriate action so you can cope with the challenge rather than making it worse.
Next time you are hurt and wanting to lash out or crawl back in bed, meet the situation with a question:
“Why is he responding this way?”
“What can I learn from this?”
“I wonder what happened to make him feel so scared?”
“What kind of pressure is she under to make this work?”
“I wonder what happened to cause this mood.”
“I wonder what would be the best way for me to handle this moment?”
“I wonder how I can resolve this situation?”
Usually, I ask these and other questions, silently to myself. But the minute I do, instead of catching someone’s anger or being caught up in the intensity of the situation, I become an explorer.
Instead of reacting emotionally, I go looking for context. I work to identify what is really happening in the moment; to understand why I’m feeling the way I am, and the experience of the others. That helps me pause. Gives me time to catch my breath and respond rationally rather than reacting emotionally.
Curiosity Yields Insight
When I do this, curiosity yields insight. Mostly, it reminds me that whatever is going on around me is usually not really my business and I don’t need to take it personally. Often I learn something about myself and others. Or, I recognize my role in the situation so I can handle it more appropriately.
I don’t always get it right, of course. Sometimes I do leap into the emotional fire and ratchet up the stress. Rarely does that go well. Usually, the true issue gets clouded by all the emotion and nothing gets settled anyhow.
But, when I can meet any adversity, argument, challenge, with a curious nature, a desire to know more, to understand the experience of another, it diffuses the moment.
Anger and upset have a hard time co-existing with curiosity. Curiosity demands more of my attention and that diffuses the volatility and stress around me. The challenge eases and I become engaged and able to cope rather that flustered and angry or hurt.
Think of it like this: haunted houses are really scary when you are wandering through in the dark. But, when you are curious about how it all works, and you turn on the lights and see the gimmicks, and flashing lights and speakers transmitting scary music, when you see the human beings standing upright, clad in costumes, the drama is gone.
Curiosity is like that. It shows us what’s behind the emotion or adversity and by doing so it diffuses the drama and creates a way through any situation.