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Bouncing Back and Moving On

Bouncing Back and Moving On

Moderated Panel

International Conference, Buenaventura, Panama. January 22, 2014.

Highlights:

Don’t we all hope, and even expect, that if we study hard at school, work hard in the career we’ve chosen, and trust our choices, success will follow success in a linear fashion; that these efforts and decisions will insulate us from failure or rejection?  Who doesn’t?  But in reality, life is seldom like that.  Many of us have to deal with profound adversity in either our professional or personal lives – adversity that threatens our professional status, social standing, financial security – our very sense of who we are. In bouncing back and moving on from adversity, the panel addressed four key elements:

1. Grieving without getting stuck

Research shows that traumatic experiences commonly produce feelings of anxiety, shame, and the sense of failure. These feelings can be so powerful that many people experience them as paralyzing.  We also know venting and expressing feelings is a vital part of the healing process.  The key is to vent our feelings effectively, without letting them overtake us.  Venting feelings effectively involves expressing your feelings and having them understood by a supportive listener. When this happens, feelings diminish, rather than escalate. Look for ways to talk about your feelings to people who can understand and support you.

2. Don’t let shame thwart needed engagement and support

Seldom does one escape feelings of doubt or self questioning, or resist the sheer magnitude of the feelings of grief, anxiety, shame, even humiliation. A first challenge is to resist letting such feelings define oneself, and thus an understandable temptation to isolate. The process of processing these feelings is of course internal, but is dramatically aided by the help and support of trusted third parties in one way or another.  We know from the trauma literature that social support is one of the strongest protectors against the negative after-effects of trauma.  Pushing through shame to enlist vital support is a key element to bouncing back.

3. Embracing choices ahead

Sometimes one of the hardest things to do is to embrace the choices we actually have, rather than the choices we wished we had.  Grieving the choices we no longer have, or perhaps the choices we have already made that didn’t work out, is unavoidable. The trick is to embrace the choices in front of us, and move forward, rather than getting stuck wishing we could undo the choices of the past.  On hindsight we see that embracing the choices in front of us is a key element of moving forward, pivoting towards the future and making better lives for ourselves.

4. You can handle it

Finally, when the unexpected happens – because it could happen to any of us – remember YOU CAN HANDLE IT. Even better, you will be stronger and happier for having done so in the end. Research shows that it is only when we stretch to the point of vulnerability that we build our self-esteem. And, it is this very self-esteem that helps us weather adversity, and truly move forward.

Alicia H. Clark, PsyD

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