You know that feeling?
Like you could cave in at any moment.
Feeling fearful and tired at the same time.
Consumed with the fear of failure but having no urge to be productive.
You want friends but at the same time you hate socializing. You want to be left alone but you can't bare feeling lonely.
You worry about everything but at the same time you care about nothing. Feeling everything at once, then feeling paralyzingly numb.
You want to scream. You want to cry.
But you know that if you don't hold an even keel, it's not just you that suffers if you can't keep it together...
Your family, your kids and work colleagues will become victims too.
This all leaves you wondering...
Will I ever be able to function like a normal person?
Heart wrenching isn’t it?
And unless you’ve experienced it before, you can’t understand how devastating this can be.
But will you permit me to be honest with you for a second?
The honest truth…
The real reason you are not coping well or functioning effectively is this.
Not because you can’t cope.
Not because you are weak and don’t have the genetic make up to cope.
And not because you are not normal like those who appear to be coping.
It’s because you haven’t had the opportunity to learn effective coping skills. Coping skills that will help you address the issues you are dealing with. Coping skills that will keep you resilient under pressure.
Unfortunately, society expects you to just know how to cope.
But let’s be honest…
Right from childhood, has anyone ever sat you down and shown you how to cope?
You are just expected to learn for yourself.
You are expected to pick up something here or there.
Do trial and error with no real plan of what works or what fails.
You are just expected to get out there in the BIG WICKED WORLD and magically… cope.
And you know what’s sad...
You may have been brainwashed into placing this ridiculously impossible expectations on yourself too.
Brainwashed into feeling useless because you can’t cope.
But here’s the question…
Is coping going into battle mode...
And ploughing through the mountain of things you need to do for yourself or others?
People who do this collapse as soon as they get some moment of peace to themselves.
So that’s certainly not coping Is it?
To explain what coping means, I’ll start by explaining what coping isn’t.
You see, most people live life oblivious to the fact that we all have a natural emotional threshold.
A threshold that when exceeded, can easily plummet the strongest of humans into meltdown.
You can tell you that you've hit, or about to hit your emotional threshold, if...
This brings me to my next important point.
You see, in my over 20 years of working in the mental-health field, I have learnt that...
There are 3 deadly mind-sets that will smash you into your emotional threshold all the time.
I will now describe these 3 mind-sets in detail.
I'll show you how they sabotage everything you do to cope better. And i'll give you real-life examples of how they work so you know how to spot them and have the best chance to avoid getting caught out by them.
Then in the final article in this series I will reveal 6 essential coping skills that will give you the edge over these 3 mindsets. These 6 skills have helped my clients avoid a lifetime of pain because of trial and error.
Sounds good? Let's dig in.
It's one of those things.
You never thought it would happen to you. Now you're so broken, you believe "you'll never be the person you used to be again."
This phrase characterises our first toxic mind-set perfectly. I call it...
The blind man on motorway mind-set fools you into thinking that you are somehow exempt from emotional difficulties. You are oblivious to the fact that an emotional threshold exists for everyone.
You are either empathetic to the emotional struggles of other people, believing it will never happen to you.
Or you simply believe that mental health issues are not real. You have a strong opinion that mental illness is for weak people.
However, the biggest problem with the blind man on motorway mind-set is that due your lack of knowledge about the emotional threshold, your way of managing emotional issues turns you into an "emotional accident waiting to happen."
It's like you're walking on a motorway blindfolded.
Oblivious to the cars flying towards you at hundred miles an hour.
But because you are blindfolded...
You are thinking "This is just a walk in a park."
And you are not aware of the true impact of everything that's happening to you .
This puts you at risk of a massive mental health breakdown. And the breakdown becomes a hundred times more likely if unexpected traumatic events are dumped on your laps.
Here is a true life example of how this mindset can trap you.
Jim was a department manager.
He believed himself to be robust and secure emotionally. And knew he could handle whatever life threw at him.
Jim had a great job.
He could afford holidays with his family 3 times a year. He worked with a team of supportive people. For over 15 years life was exactly the way he wanted.
Then out of the blue, Jim was made redundant.
And years after, he was left frustrated unable to find a job that gave him the same sort of satisfaction. In fact he often found himself heavily criticised, undermined and bullied in most of the jobs he got.
Eventually, Jim lost confidence in himself and got stuck in a cycle of self-criticism and emotional meltdowns.
This left Jim thinking...
“This cannot be happening to me,I am strong, I can cope and have always coped with pressure. Why is it different this time? I used to be confident and able to cope with things. I have lost the old me and I am afraid I'll never be able to cope again.”
You see, Jim’s problem was not really because he had lost his “old confident self.” In fact his old confident self was still there, buried beneath all the pressure and pain he was going through.
Jim’s problem was that the blind man on motorway mind-set fooled him to think he had inbuilt coping skills.
As such he unintentionally failed to learn necessary skills. Skills that would have made him robust to face unexpected traumatic life events.
Now, I met with Jim in therapy.
I showed him how to learn the necessary skills he needed to cope.
And within two months, he was able to bounce back to coping emotionally. He reported feeling even more confident than he did before.
I will reveal the exact steps I shared with Jim later, first let's move on to the second mindset.