Monday, 14 January 2013

How to cope with tragedy

It is a fact that two separate people, faced with the same tragedy, can react in totally different ways.

While one person may descend into despair, depression and grief for months (even years), another person is quickly able to pick up the pieces and get their lives back together.

How to recover from setbacks

What is it about the more resilient person that prevents them from breaking down after experiencing a setback? In addition to getting essential emotional needs met in our lives, a further reason is often that they are able to find the good that came out of the setback and find meaning.

There are three main ways in which we stretch ourselves to get meaning into our lives:

To serve others – to have people who need us provides a great sense of meaning and purpose. Hence raising a family is always meaningful, looking after grandchildren or elderly grandparents, having friends who value your support, work colleagues you can’t let down, patients or clients you must keep appointments with, students you must keep on teaching or people less fortunate than yourself who you can help. Pledging time contributing to the community for free, for example doing any sort of voluntary work, supporting a football team, or being a member of a Parent Teacher Association, is stretching. Even looking after animals that depend on you for their survival is service.

Learning and problem solving – being involved in activities that challenge and stretch us. Active problem solving is good for us. Your brain must be stretched like muscle as when it is bored and slack, it is an unhealthy brain. Viewing life obstacles as problems to be overcome is the most healthy way of dealing with them, and this is because we thrive on challenges that focus our attention and give us something to work towards. For example, you might hear a successful businessman say, “The best thing that ever happened to me was when my company went bankrupt and I lost everything. I was right down in the lowest place possible but I learnt lessons I wouldn’t have learnt otherwise and then built myself up again. I wouldn’t be the strong person I am today if that awful situation hadn’t happened to me.”

Commitment to coherent philosophy of life greater than yourself – People who have a committed religious practice have better mental health and live longer than those who don’t, but you don’t have to be religious to get the same result. Some people would not call themselves religious but nevertheless have a ‘spiritual orientation’ and open-mindedness towards any quest involving the possibility of a greater intelligence system in the universe. Secular people who consider themselves to be on an active quest for ‘scientific truth’, ‘justice’ or ‘better education’, ‘saving the environment’ or improving the ‘quality of life’ for others, also gain the beneficial effect of a coherent philosophy of life.

Listen to Joe Griffin and Ivan Tyrrell explain further in these two videos:

These clips were taken from the CD: Evolution and the human givens... hope for the future

For more about man's search for meaning: see Godhead: The Brain's Big Bang

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