Handling Difficult Situations

If we’re being honest, life is filled with difficult situations.

They seem to pop up weekly, daily, sometimes even hourly.

In the video at the end of this post, Tony Robbins gives an great process for handling difficult situations. The part we are focusing on today starts at around the 14 minute mark. I pulled out some of the most important parts for us to consider.

Most of us handle these difficult situations, and the emotions that come with them, in 4 different ways:

  1. Avoidance. This situation is horrible, nobody wants to deal with it, and it feels awful. It makes total sense to metaphorically “get out of dodge” and try not to deal with it. The problem is the problem will wait for us.

  2. Endurance. This is the American way. Grunt it out, fight, grind, ignore the pain, and overcome it. This usually leads to the emotion getting stronger. We may have found a solution the the difficult situation, we’re problem-solvers after all, but we have not dealt with the difficult emotions, and they continue to wreak havoc in the background.

  3. Competition. We have all run into the “one-uppers.” We may even be one. We hold on to our difficult situations and emotions in order to compare and compete (at least subconsciously). This looks like, “You’re having a hard time? Let me tell you about the time I had it worse!”

  4. Pessimism/Problem focus. “Stay away from negative people. They have a problem for every solution.” — Albert Einstein. People who process their emotions in this way share their pain in a way that is unhealthy. They share in a way that drags others down instead of getting it out and processing it in a healthy way. This is the classic “misery loves company” experience.

Now that we’ve gone over the ways that most of us handle these situations and emotions in an unhealthy and ineffective way, let’s go over how to better process difficult situations and emotions.

First, when a difficult situation or emotion arises, ask yourself the following:

What else could this mean?

  • Look at the situation with fresh eyes.

  • Try to see the problem from as many sides as possible, negative and positive.

  • Decide on a meaning for the situation or emotion that creates a positive meaning or a purpose.

Second, once you have explored everything that this difficult situation could mean, now we need to ask ourselves this questions:

Do I know everything there is to know about this?

  • Take your curiosity up a notch and take a walk in the other person’s shoes.

  • What are some other possible reasons that this situation is occurring?

  • What are some other possible reasons that this person is acting this way?

Third, now that we have really taken this difficult situation for a walk and tried to look at it objectively and from all sides, it’s time to address the negative emotions that are arising with this situation (6 Steps to Transforming Negative Emotions).

  • Emotions are simply signals telling us to pay attention. Ask yourself, “What do I need to pay attention to here?”

  • Emotions are a call to action. “What action to need to take that I am currently not taking?”

  • Every emotion is a message. “What is the message this emotion is trying to convey?”

  • Finally, we begin to recognize that we need to change our perception and/or our current actions.

Finally, we do our best to learn from them and utilize them. Easier said than done, but it’s all we really have.

  • Change what something means to us. Try to shift the negative meaning and message of this event into positive action and change. None of that silver-lining stuff, but “how can I grow from this?”

  • Using this process, we transform our thoughts and emotions about the difficult situation (more on this next week).

  • If you are unable to transform the thoughts and emotions on your own, go to source to help you transform it. “Can you help me? My brain is screwing up this (insert situation) and I’m struggling to process it.”

If we can commit to this process, difficult situations become that much less difficult. This process allows us to regain the control over our lives that we feel had left us.

Here’s the recording from where this came from:

Jason Keilman, MS
Registered Mental Health Counselor Intern
IMH 18395
Certified Yoga Teacher

I help handle difficult situations.
Contact me today to begin your healing journey.

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