10 Ways to Reframe Negative Experiences and Bounce Back From Challenges
Negative experiences happen to everyone. If you’re born to the Earth, you’re going to have bumps along your journey. Learning how to deal with negative experiences is an essential skill set that can be learned. Every day presents opportunities for things to go very well, or very poorly. Most days are some type of combination of both. Have you ever overreacted or said something you later regretted? Have circumstances caused you to fall into a depression, and lose your confidence? No doubt about it, negative things are going to happen. My goal is to help you learn how not to feel like a ping pong ball being bounced back and forth between lousy experiences and regret. We can reframe our negative experiences and become better at managing them so we can bounce back and get our bounce back!
Learning how to deal with negative experiences is an essential skill set that can be learned.
10 Ways to Reframe Negative Experiences and Get Your Bounce Back:
1. What insights does the negative experience offer? Whether you keep getting dumped in relationships, or you lost a lot of money with a bad investment, you can learn something from the experience. This is a writer-downer in a journal because this one process can transform your whole life and attitude. Analyze the events and dynamics that led up to the negative experience to see if something could have been done differently. With this informed hindsight, strategize ways that you can prevent a repeat performance. Writing it down helps keep it closer to the front of your mind for future reference.
2. See the silver lining. Every rose has its thorns. Suddenly single but don’t want to be? Instead of running to the next available warm body, consider that the silver lining is that you have more time and emotional freedom to do some healing of your mind, body, and spirit. Maybe being alone is exactly what you need to take inventory of and spend time developing yourself and pursuing your interests. Ask yourself if you know what a healthy relationship looks like. Consider that your past relationships didn’t work out because you are attracting the wrong type of person for you. Were they emotionally healthy? Are you healthy enough for someone to be with? Perhaps you are using people so you can avoid being alone. Perhaps you were not actually in love with the person you were with. Perhaps there are aspects of your personality or habits that need addressing. Do you dominate conversations? Chew with your mouth open? Are you defensive and argumentative when your partner needed to share difficult feelings about your relationship?
I’m not saying you’re the problem in your relationships, but everyone has relationship skills and personal habits that could use some tweaking. Being single offers great opportunities to take an inventory of your relationship skills and mental and emotional health. Go to counseling. Attend personal development retreats, read new books on relationships that are based on the most recent social science and research. What can you do to move your goals forward? Do you need more education? A better job? Do you need to travel more? Do something that moves you forward as a person.
3. We can learn what to do by experiencing what not to do.
All honest effort produces lessons. We must embrace every type of learning, even failure. — Kilroy J. Oldster, Dead Toad Scrolls
Life isn’t easy. If great relationships were easy, we’d all have them. If we were all-knowing we wouldn’t make mistakes. But we aren’t, so we do. The universal imperfection of mankind is a glorious unifier. No one is perfect. The movers and shakers in history and modern times all had paths of resistance filled with challenges and failures. Muscles grow when they are broken down by resistance. Children learn to walk by falling. Just nod your head if you understand so I don’t have to throw another cliché at you.
4. Practice pausing. Before you speak or take action, love yourself and those around you enough to take a moment. You have the right to remain silent any time you want. Does the situation require an immediate response or action? Maybe you don’t need to react at all. If action is necessary, then you’ve given yourself the time necessary to give calmer consideration to the situation than you might otherwise have. A simple pause and a couple of deep breaths can help you avoid making the situation worse.
5. Accept the inevitability of negative things happening. Despite all that we may do to have everything go our way, things can and do go wrong. People become sick, injured, or die. Our relationships hit roadblocks or end. You don’t get the promotion you wanted. Your dog bites the neighbor kid’s leg despite hundreds of dollars spent on obedience training. Life happens. We can neutralize our responses to past, current, and future events by pre-framing each day with the conscious awareness that the good, the bad, and the ugly are all a part of this life. We can only do our best, and let the chips fall where they may. If we focus on being our best selves and seeking the highest good of those around us, then we have done all we can do. God, the Universe, Karma- whatever or whoever you believe is at the helm of Creation Command Central will help us handle the rest. Am I talking about faith? Yes, I am. Have faith in God, in yourself, and in others. The best outcomes and relationships operate on a system of good faith effort. It has worked for billions of people and has the best user rating of anything ever in the history of time.
6. Challenge your beliefs about the experience. There’s good news! Your map is not the territory. Without a 10,000-foot view, we don’t have all the facts about the terrain. We just have our view of the map. That break-up…was it a negative experience, or is it an opportunity for something better to come into your life? Is it both? Is it a failure or a learning opportunity? Is it both? Perhaps it doesn’t have any meaning at all. Perhaps its lack of meaning is because you are not addressing it so you aren’t leveraging the experience for your growth. Get curious! How many times do you listen to a friend about their struggles, or read news stories about major tragedies or problems in society and see the struggles and opportunities for what they are? How often have you given relevant and sound advice to your loved ones? Let’s do that for ourselves. I am a huge believer that most of us know the answers to our deepest concerns and questions. We just need someone who believes in us to remind us of this truth. This can help us believe in ourselves.
7. Change the memory completely. If you can’t get over the memory of your recent breakup, change the memory. Imagine him wearing a robot costume. As he talks like a robot you can see the words floating above his head. They pop in the air like weak bubbles. Now run through the conversation. Did you notice that your feelings about it changed? Good. You deserve to be relieved of the heavy burden of negative rumination. Now do it again with a different scenario and run through the conversation again. Doesn’t that feel better? Kind of fun to be so powerful, eh?
8. Stop Ruminating. Sometimes the best medicine is a redirection of focus. What friend do you want to do something fun with? Call them up and make plans! Visit a family member. Spend time on a hobby or take a short trip out of town. Shifting your focus can help your mind process the negative experience more efficiently. Will you think about it while you’re distracting yourself? Most likely. But consider how hard it would be to rehearse unhappiness while you’re laughing at a comedy club, or playing games with friends. We can’t wipe your mind clean of negative memories. We can simply fill them with new positive ones.
9. Get another perspective. It’s easy to not see the forest for the trees. Sometimes we’re just too close to the situation to be able to assess it and know how to heal from it. Do you have a trusted friend or family member? Do you need counseling so that you can have a partner in your healing? Value the input from the wise and insightful people in your life who know and respect you.
10. Release the experience from your body. Stress resides in the body. The memory of your stress can cause an imbalance of the mind, body, and spirit. We can release this stress in several ways. I recently studied a process that involves acting out the scenario like a one-person play and giving it a resolution that you would have preferred. Say what you would have liked to have said at the moment and allow your body to release the stress of unresolved communication. For years I struggled to say what I felt. I fawned in the presence of overbearing and manipulative people. Happily, I learned about tapping, and for twenty years I have tapped away just about everything that got stuck in my craw and it feels great. It also makes it easier for me to speak my truth in the moment if I deem it necessary.
Even though negative outcomes are inevitable, and (dare I say) a necessary part of life, in many cases, it’s possible to turn a negative experience into something enriching that moves you forward in your growth. And that’s the whole point of life, isn’t it? When we learn to grow and love against all odds, and then pay it forward by helping others to grow and thrive, well then…we discover the meaning of life.