Building resilience to internal set-backs with the support of PQ®

“It's not what happens to you, but how you react to it that matters.” - Epictetus.


The above quote by the Stoic Greek philosopher Epictetus (born into slavery around AD 50) may resonate if you feel that your thoughts and emotions are out of control sometimes. Indeed, they may shed light on how little control we have over various phenomena like thoughts and emotions. We can modify and change how we react to these and strengthen our resilience to internal as well as external setbacks.

Although this quote is often used to illustrate how, against all external odds, some people have reached excellence, I want to acknowledge internal setbacks can often hold us hostage - in states of fear, anger, shame, and despair (as if life was throwing a spanner in the proverbial works) and threaten our progress.

Between stimulus and response, there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.

Victor Frankl

From being identified with our thoughts and emotions to acknowledging them and creating a space for new responses. Building resilience is one of the numerous areas where working with the Positive Intelligence® (PQ®) set of tools is brilliant and effective. We're not only encouraged to recognise our personal inner critics - how they may manifest physically as well as mentally and emotionally - but also learn how to lessen their voices by training the right brain - the sage - to take over and create new neural pathways which enhance one’s capacity for choice making, living a richer, fuller life aligned with one’s essence.

PQ® recognises that we have limited (to no control) over our “rambling minds”, especially our inner judge and its cohort of saboteurs (inner critics), which sometimes conspire to make our life difficult and even miserable. In contrast, PQ® recognises that there is a sage part in each of us (our essence). It dwells in various parts of what we call the right brain, guiding us throughout life towards our goals and through our setbacks, failures, unavoidable pains, and sorrows with a gentler, discerning, firm, sometimes fierce and often humorous pull.

PQ® highlights the plasticity of our brains and the fact that we can build new neural pathways. It proposes that we learn to recognise and interfere with inner critics hijacking and develop our sage powers, expanding our capacity for empathy, curiosity, creativity, discernment and calm, laser-focused action by re-wiring our brains to respond gracefully to life’s ebb and flow. We can sail our boats to the sunset of our lives as skilful navigators and passionate explorers.

How do we intercept an internal setback?

Below you'll find a guideline that helps my clients:

1. Acknowledge what is happening

  • See the unpalatable thoughts.
  • Feel the unpleasant emotions that may accompany the thoughts.
  • Sense their physical manifestations.

Don’t analyse, don’t dwell on them: Remove your hand from the hot stove.

Recovery exercise if you're in a situation where you can be on your own.

  • Give yourself 5 to 20 to sit quietly with your feet on the floor (shoes off if possible).
  • With your eyes closed, feel your feet on the floor, then wriggle your toes before returning them to the floor; feel the anchor this gives you.
  • Rub two fingers together in such a way that you feel their ridges.
  • Rub all the fingers of one hand against the palm of the other.
  • Feel your breath in your abdomen and follow it.
  • Hear the sounds around you, and then the sounds of your body: blood pulsing, your own breath.

Recovery exercise if you are in a social situation

  • 30” to 1’ at a time to be repeated.
  • Feel your feet on the floor, then wriggle your toes before returning them on the floor, feel the anchor this gives you.
  • Rub two fingers together in such a way that you feel their ridges.
  • Feel your breath in your abdomen and follow it
  • Notice your surroundings, and be interested in colours, shapes, light and shadow as well as textures.
  • Notice the people around you, really look at them, notice something particular about them, the many colours of their pupils, for instance, the way they stand or sit etc. The idea here is to observe and not judge.

Thoughts will come and go and chances are that you will find yourself distracted by some of them. That is normal, just watch how they disappear of their own accord. You may also feel emotions, and sensations, like the thoughts, they will come and go.

2. Accept and/or convert


Acknowledging a mood that has taken hold of us and is churning negative emotions and thoughts, weaving them into an often rich narrative of who we are, can be at once scary and liberating. Scary because we have, for a moment, a clear picture of how we experience ourselves at this moment, liberating because the narrative has a tendency to pass away quite quickly once it has been felt, acknowledged, and accepted.

Accepting the state of our moods, thoughts, and emotions is crucial before we can do anything about them. Either let the issue really go or convert it consciously.

  • Accepting requires that we do not judge ourselves.
  • Accepting requires a degree of compassion towards ourselves.
  • Accepting requires us to tolerate being uncomfortable and not knowing.

These three prerequisites have the power to move us from shame, fear, anger, self-pity, and self-abuse … to creating new solutions for ourselves. We move from a state of powerlessness to a state of wisdom and inner power.

In the act of accepting we start a creative process of changing our responses. We literally create new neural pathways, which, if repeated diligently and regularly, offer our brains alternative ways of responding to an event (internal or external), providing us with a space - a breath - where we can choose a more appropriate way to respond instead of a knee-jerk reaction.

In the case of an internal event, which seems to arise out of nowhere, we are now in a position where we can start converting it.

Accepting is not the same as resigning oneself

Some questions we can ask ourselves to support our acceptance:

  • Is there something I am avoiding, denying, dismissing, or forgetting?
  • Is there something I need to let go of?
  • What would it be like to accept this moment and life exactly as it is?


Reframe, transform and imagine new solutions and re-orient. The state of wisdom and inner power allows us to navigate with a calmer, clearer more alert mind the incoming flow of phenomena in an engaged, curious manner that is a pull towards solving issues, exploring alternative outcomes, planning new goals, imagining strategies, setting or correcting a route, and starting implementation. It is an act of creation and love. Instead of being pushed by fear, shame, and anger… to scratch for a resolution in a landscape of scarcity, it proposes solutions we may never have thought about or totally dismissed. It is a pull towards a richer, more fecund terrain.

Some questions we can ask ourselves when we desire to convert and transform an internal or external “event” or set-back:

  • What would be a worst-case scenario?
  • How terrible would it be if it happened?
  • What is the likelihood of it happening?
  • Has it happened before in my life?
  • If it happened now, how would I respond now?
  • What can I do to prepare?
  • Who can I turn to for help and guidance?
  • If this had happened to a friend, what would you say to them?
  • How would you help?
  • Do you know of anyone who this has happened to?
  • How did they handle it?

Compare the responses you gave if the setback had happened to a friend with how you reacted at first to your own setback. Often our responses to a loved one are more compassionate and less judgmental. They can also be much clearer, more effective and imaginative. 


  • What kind of opportunities are lying hidden in this setback?
  • What lesson(s) can I learn from this setback?
  • What strength(s) do I need to develop?
  • What support can I draw upon?
  • How can I do things differently?
  • How do I acknowledge my weaknesses and limitations and find new ways to navigate them whilst developing my strengths?

Resilience is a subject I help clients with, so if you’d like to learn more about how we can work together, do get in touch by clicking the email me button below. I hope you'll find this article helpful

The views expressed in this article are those of the author. All articles published on Life Coach Directory are reviewed by our editorial team.

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London, E8
Written by Sofie Cornillon Guerrero, Personal Creative Leadership Coach
London, E8

Sofie Cornillon Guerrero is a transformational and mental fitness life coach who helps remarkable people to love themselves, to impact their life boldly and to inspire others.

She collaborates with and supports people who are committed to re-kindle their self-esteem, personal power and develop agency in their life.

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