How to Deal with Unfortunate Events

When I opened my eyes I came to the conclusion that two eyes were staring at me. Two friendly blue eyes that belonged to a man I didn´t know that well at that time. In his eyes I saw curiosity. An eagerness to know what just happened to me in the past 5 minutes.

And?, he asked
Peter Pan, I said. It has always been Peter Pan.
And who appeared to you?, I asked in return.
Little Red Ridinghood, he said.

Normally, I would have considered this as a weird conversation between two adult (almost) strangers which should have been reason for a polite goodbye. But the fact that 34 other people in the room were sharing their favorite fairytale character, strangely made it feel like one of the most interesting things to discuss. So I stayed.

Now, before you think that staying was my only option anyways, because the alternative would have ended up by men in white, giving me an injection to calm me down, I wasn’t in such a place.

No, it was a practice during one of my Neuro-linguistic programming (NLP) training days and I like to think that we were all quite sane. But that’s not very important for this story. More important is Peter Pan!

Why Peter Pan? That’s what I had to figure out during that practice. Why do I relate to Peter Pan? What does he do or has that I want too? I didn’t have to think long. Just like him, I don’t want to grow up. He found Neverland. Well, as you can see in the name of my website, I am trying to find a similar place. But then it’s called Freedomland. Being an adult is just much harder than being a kid so that’s why I don’t want to grow up. At least not in the conventional way.

To find out the reason why I think that life as an adult is harder than life as a kid took a me little longer though but I think I’ve figured it out.

It’s not that I hate being an adult. There are a lot of upsides. I can eat as many fish fingers as I want now for example. When the street lights turn on, it’s not a sign for me anymore to drop all my activities and to go home as soon as I can. And on a more serious note, I can travel where ever I want to go to, I can learn what I want to learn and I can be who I want to be.

Frankly, I can do anything I want as an adult. It’s my freedom and my own responsibility.

But that responsibility is both a blessing as a curse. I have to make all my choices myself as an adult. And because I am never more than just a draft version of my own self and I never know any better than what I know, I’m not always making the right ones.

Whether my choices are conscious or unconscious, those choices lead my path and once in a while I end up in a place or situation I don’t want to be in. I don´t like to be in places or situations I don´t want to be in. They make me unhappy and knowing that it is my own fault doesn’t make it better.

The fact that you can read this article means that you are human and as a human you probably know what I’m talking about. You’ve been there. We’ve all been there.

The good thing is that if your choices has led you somewhere, it’s probably within your circle of influence. You are in control and you can choose to leave again. Simply by walking away and focusing on different things. It’s the freedom and ability you have as a human.

But sometimes bad things just happen, even when it had nothing to do with your choice. A loved one leaves you, you get fired, things don’t go as planned, someone hurts you, it can be anything. You probably have your own list.

And, if you don’t deal with unfortunate events the right way, they can have a huge negative impact on your life and make your world a dark place for too long.

This being said, we’ve come to an important point why genuine happiness is easier found by children than adults. They are naturally better in dealing with unfortunate events. Of course children do experience negativity but they don’t linger like adults. They cry, shake it off and it’s done. This is because they simply can’t linger the way adults do.

It’s because of the development of the brain. When we are young, our brains are smaller and not fully developed. If our brains would be fully developed at birth, mommies would be very unhappy while giving birth.

The frontal lobes in our brain are fully developed at the age of 21 so from that moment, they work at their best. It’s the moment we become adults. Our frontal lobes work like a simulator. They enable us to experience something that hasn’t happen yet. When you look at a menu cart, you can simulate how it would be like to eat a certain dish and then you can make the choice if you want to eat it or not. Basically, you create a mental future.

And adults are super good in creating mental futures. We do it all the time. Unfortunately we have the habit to create a lot of negative mental futures as well, especially in times of unfortunate events. We create even worse future scenario’s and then we fear they are going to be reality. Not very desirable in non- life-threatening situations but it’s what we do because we can.

Also, adults are much better past-dwellers than children. First of all, we have a lot more past. We have a lot more resources to fill our past space than a child and again, our simulation skills are better. But this time it’s in reverse. We keep creating a past moment over and over again. Often more negative than positive. You can’t stay miserable or sad about something for long without repeatedly and mentally re-creating the experience. But it is what we do.

So actually adults are better equipped to keep their selves unhappy in times of unfortunate events  than children. But we all grow up. I guess everyone who reads this is an adult because otherwise you wouldn’t care about articles concerning personal development.

Even if we would find a fairy friend who can make us fly and if we would magically make our way to Neverland, we would be too late. It wouldn’t make any difference.

Does this mean that we’re doomed as adults to be genuinely unhappier? No, on the contrary. As adults we are capable of having a much bigger awareness than children and from awareness, everything is possible. A state of awareness is a state of freedom and control. From awareness you can choose what you truly want, what is best for you and how you want to deal with life. You can choose to live as happy as possible.

When you’ve faced an unfortunate event you can choose to move on as soon as possible and make yourself feel happy again.

Easier said than done. I know, I’ve been there. It’s hard to beat negativity when you feel miserable, sad and powerless. Unless you have the right set of tools. And there is a set of tools. Everyone has one, even when you don’t know it yet.

To work myself out of the negative flow after an unfortunate event, I use a step by step plan which works really great. It´s important that I do it in the right order and this is what I do:

Step 1. Call a good friend or family member

Feeling sad is bad but feeling sad and all alone is even worse. Sharing turns big and heavy problems into smaller and lighter problems because you know you are not alone in this. There are people willing to help you and that is a very comforting feeling and thought. It works instantly. But do not call just any friend or family member. Call a person that knows empathy  and if you’re not sure about the meaning of empathy, watch this sort movie by Brene Brown.

Step 2. Accept the situation

On every single moment, things are like they are and we rarely have the power to change things in an instant. Especially in the context of feelings and emotions. Change takes time which means that if you feel sad, you will probably feel sad for a longer time. And there is nothing you can do about it. Fighting it will only make it worse because you won’t win on the sort run so not only you feel sad, but also powerless. The best thing you can do to take control, is to accept your situation. It sucks but hey, bad things happen. Make peace with it because only peace is the right soil for healing.

Step 3. Do something that makes you happy

It’s very simple, do something that makes you happy. Everyone has things they like to do. Keep your mind off your problem for a while and do something fun. Sports, cinema, having a drink with friends, complete a puzzle, go to a theme park. Your choices are plenty.

Step 4. Write about what happened

The previous steps should have made you feel a little better and stronger so now it’s time to confront the problem. You’re going to write about it. In general our minds are a mess and especially when you feel overwhelmed, sad and powerless.

During unfortunate events, our brain works like a maniac, thought patterns run wild and most likely repeatedly. We think a lot, a lot happens inside of us but we have no clue exactly what. When you write, you do something your brain itself is actually bad at, you order your thoughts. It’s nice to let it all out and once you see the structure, it’s not so overwhelming anymore. The whole picture gets clear and you start to see ways to take control again.

It’s important that you write without any rules. It doesn’t have to be a good story, the spelling doesn’t have to be correct, just write.

Step 5. Silverlining

What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. Nietzche already said it in his time and it’s still quoted by many. It means that you can learn and grow from every experience including the bad ones. But you have to deal with them in a healthy way otherwise they will ‘kill’ you. One healthy way to deal with a problem or bad situation is to silver line it.

Things aren’t only bad or only good. They are always both. Try to see the positive in the negative. Maybe there is a lesson that can be learned, maybe you have lost something but there is room for something new and inspiring now.

Sliver lining is the halo of light around a dark cloud when the sun is shining behind it. When you only focus on the center of the cloud, you will never see it. But when you look at the sky, you will.

Step 6. Make new positive goals

Goals have a super positive effect on people for multiple reasons. They stand for growth, it’s fun to work towards something you like, there is a reward at the end, they can make you feel proud and they are also a way out. In case of an unfortunate event, you don’t want to linger and get stuck in a loop of negativity. That’s why it’s so important to set yourself new goals again.
Nelson Mandela already said it: The greatest glory in living lies not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall. And rising in this case is adjusting your goals or setting yourself completely new ones. That’s up to you.

Step 7. Try to achieve your new goals

Well maybe only rising is not enough. You have to start walking again to be able to enjoy the world in all its glory. So take action. Push yourself and achieve those new goals. You will see how much positive energy it will give you and it’s a great way to move on.

So whenever you feel miserable, sad, down or disappointed, just follow these steps in this order and there is no way that you won’t feel better.

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