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When Tragedy Strikes, Will You Be Able to Rise Above It?

Wednesday, July 25, 2018


When Tragedy Strikes, Will You Be Able to Rise Above It?Why can some people rise above tragedy, while others are swallowed up by it? We’re all human, so what do these overcomers have that sees them through difficult times with such grace and dignity?

Psychologists have been grappling with this issue for years. While I don’t want to over simplify or minimize the suffering experienced, there’s a natural progression when tragedy strikes us personally - our emotions become highly engaged and then our dominant attitude takes over. Yes, attitude really is everything.

For example, if you’re prone to dwelling on the disappointment, you’ll sink into hopelessness and depression. If, on the other hand, you look for some meaning, you’ll bounce back more quickly. That forward-thinking, positive attitude is what fuels resilience.

Having a positive outlook in difficult circumstances is the most important predictor of how quickly you’ll recover from a tragedy. Resilience makes you better able to regulate your emotions, so you can maintain your optimism through anything.

I’ve found an interesting article in The Atlantic that collects together studies that show how a positive attitude, optimism and resilience are vital to coping with tragedy. This flies in the face of a popular strategy known as “venting.”

Ever since the time of Freud, psychologists have thought that people simply need to blow off steam to be happier. But venting isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.

Dwelling on your suffering for even a short length of time or venting through punching something or yelling at someone tends to make people feel worse, not better. It’s only when you seek the silver lining that you make some sort of sense out of tragedy. The ultimate key to facing adversity with resilience is to find meaning in it. Probe into the causes and consequences of the tragedy and become wiser because of it.

Through my years of work, I’ve observed that the highest form of empathy on the EmD Scale, the complex trait of Radiant Empathy, contributes to greater resilience. It makes it easier to transform negative feelings into positive ones, because you develop greater emotional flexibility. You can let go of the negative and shift to the positive more quickly.

This summer, I’m working on pulling together a new resource for you to learn more about Radiant Empathy. Be sure to sign up for my newsletter, then you’ll be one of the first to know when it’s available.

In the meantime, if you’d like to enlarge your empathic skills, read my new book, “WHEN EMPATHY FAILS,” which is a practical guidebook for developing this quality. Or if you prefer 1:1 counseling, and you live near Portland, OR/Vancouver, WA please contact my Jantzen Beach office and schedule an appointment. I offer online therapy if that works better for you.




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