My dad used to say that life is about ten percent what happens to you, and 90% how you react.
I don't know if he knew the neuroscience behind how accurate that statement is, or even how powerful that realization can be, but he spoke the truth.
The way we react to an event creates a category for that event anything like it that might happen. Whether positive or negative, that "first" becomes a filter that changes the way we look at everything else.
I can't tell you how many times I heard, "Let this be a lesson to you, son." That's the advice I should've taken.
When we experience a trauma; emotional or physical, the pain we feel draws all of our attention. It's our built in alarm to tell us something's wrong. Because we don't like pain, the subconscious sets up watch dogs to keep it from happening again. We don't want to experience that pain again.
When there's a lesson to be learned, however, that pain is necessary. It draws the attention to the thing that's wrong so we can fix it. Oftentimes, we just complain about it.
Complaining is the emotional equivalent of picking a scab.
Read that again.
When we complain, we are verbally reopening the wound to show how badly we were hurt.
It's the "equal" reaction; something bad happens, we concentrate on all the bad.
The problem with this is that the brain doesn't understand tense. There is no past or future to the brain, everything is happening now. So when we retell, we relive.
It's why we get mad thinking about an argument we had or get chills thinking about a song we heard. It's why rape and assault victims don't want to talk about it.
Because the brain doesn't understand tense, retelling that event brings up all the same physiological responses as the event itself. Complaining about that event causes negative emotional associations with anything related to that event, because we don't want to experience it again.
The other problem this creates is it causes us to be hypersensitive to those red flags. Anything that looks like that event might be happening again causes us to want to run in the other direction.
In other words we go looking for problems that aren't there. We create more things to worry or complain about. We find more negativity to stay away from.
It's creates a constant cycle of negativity, fear and worry. We never learn the lesson.
Look for the lesson. It's the "opposite" reaction.
Instead of asking "why me?", ask yourself "how can I benefit from this?"
One of the skills I teach my clients is framing. It's a powerful exercise I use to teach them how to benefit the most from their circumstances.
These frames become filters too. Filters that train the brain to look for opportunities for learning less painfully, and more importantly, implementing those lessons and changing their life.
Another practice is to point at the praises. What I mean by this is to practice looking for aspects of an event that you can frame in a positive light. Personally, I praise God for those aspects, thus the name.
Irrespective of your personal spiritual beliefs, finding events you can be thankful for train the brain to always be looking for positives. Because your outlook is brighter, your day is better.
Instead of running scared and worrying, you can look for the lessons, implement them, change your life and be happier.
In the Army, we'd say quit yer bitchin. Suck it up and drive on.
But it's more than that. It's learning and becoming a better human. It's attracting more good into your life. It's spreading more joy and less negativity. It's healing instead of being toxic.
It's a CHOICE.
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Jon Newton is TheRapportCoach. He teaches how to use the neuroscience behind relationships to create extraordinary experiences between humans. From personal to business relationships, Jon helps humans navigate humanity.