I hadn’t known my new friend Rhys for that long – a couple of weeks, over lockdown, and of course all communication was by text. Maybe that’s partly what made him feel safe to share his personal stories with me – and, somewhere among the jokes and funny memes, a tidal wave of sorrows, regrets, disappointments and shattered dreams was suddenly unleashed.
As humans, we certainly do focus on the negative. Did you do a great job with a project at work? You’ll remember the one comment that you *could* have included [insert small detail] as well. Are you ready to go out and you look wonderful? All you’ll notice in the mirror is the annoying scuff on your shoe – and you’ll be aware of it all day.
Rhys had recently lost his job, and to him, losing his job meant his whole life had collapsed – again. It was just the latest straw, the confirmation that everything had always been a disaster and always would be. It was pointless to do anything, pointless to try, pointless even to imagine that it would get better.
I wanted to listen and be present, but I also doubted that all this reinforcing was helping him at all. So I waited for a pause in our chat, and asked him what I normally ask myself, when things get hard: “What has this taught you that’s going to help you?”
Silence ensued. A half hour of nothing. Then my phone pinged again: “That I am resilient. And that there are people I can count on.” The mood of the conversation shifted. Rhys had found his point of power – not helpless anymore, not completely hopeless, but a little more active and in control. He knew his inner resources and had a support network. Armed with this knowledge, how would he move forward? What would he do, or how would he respond differently next time?
We all feel hopeless and helpless sometimes. Life can get ferociously hard. But in all the chaos, what have you learnt? And how is it going to help you make good choices in future? Claim your hard-earned learning, your new wisdom. It will help you find your feet again.