Monday, 16 September 2013

Dealing With Wrongness!

The first weeks of school have passed and hard realities are setting in. After the initial rush of excitement, many staff, students and parents have had to deal with varying levels of frustration and challenge.  Whether its the uncertainty of the current labor climate, dealing with the disappointment of not getting the perfect school,  teacher, class or timetable or just the frustration of trying to get everything done with limited resources, many of us have had to deal with things going wrong this week.  As the Rolling Stones once sang "You Can't Always Get What You Want!  Its how we deal with the challenge that determines what happens next.

Recently I discovered the ideas of "wrongologist" Kathryn Schulz. Aside from being amazed by the fact that there is a vocation dedicated to the study of what happens when things go wrong, Schulz's explanation of how people react when things don't go their way, really resonates with me. Basically Schulz condenses our response to people who won't agree with us as a progression of ignorant, stupid or evil.

If someone doesn't agree with us, we figure it must be because they don't have all the facts. If they had all the facts, they surely wouldn't disagree with us.  It follows they must be ignorant! However, there are situations where others do have all the facts, and they still won't give us what we want. That's when we decide they must be stupid. If they were mentally competent, they'd agree with us, wouldn't they? Finally, if the other person has all the facts,  is mentally competent, but still won't agree with us, we demonize them and begin to think of them as evil. Obviously they are deliberately choosing not to do what we think should be done, causing our frustration levels to boil over.

Getting angry and frustrated  is easy. Pile on more challenges, and anger can give way to feelings of rage, helplessness or hopelessness. Fortunately people are able to adapt and rebound in the face of adversity. The ability to withstand stress and pressure is our level of resilience.  According to the PBS program, This Emotional Life people can improve their capacity for resilience at any time of life.  The program's webpage states:

   "Being resilient doesn’t mean going through life without experiencing stress and pain. People feel grief, sadness, and a range of other emotions after adversity and loss. The road to resilience lies in working through the emotions and effects of stress and painful events.

Resilience is also not something that you’re either born with or not. Resilience develops as people grow up and gain better thinking and self-management skills and more knowledge. Resilience also comes from supportive relationships with parents, peers and others, as well as cultural beliefs and traditions that help people cope with the inevitable bumps in life.  Resilience is found in a variety of behaviors, thoughts, and actions that can be learned and developed across the life span."

Factors that  can contribute to resilience include positive relationships with family and friends, apositive view of yourself and confidence in your strengths and abilities, a willingness to seek other help and resources and seeing yourself as an active participant rather than as a victim in the process.
Resilience can stem from coping with stress in healthy ways and avoiding harmful coping strategies, such as substance abuse.  Finally helping others and seeking positive meaning in your life despite difficult or traumatic events can help when it all seems to be going wrong.  Dealing with adversity is a challenge we all face.  When faced with situations that don't go as we'd hoped, we can choose to get mad or wallow in a sense of wrongness - or we can choose resilience, adapt and work at finding constructive solutions.  Like the Stones song says "You can't always get what you want - But if you try sometimes well you might find You get what you need"

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