Empowerment through adversity
When we swipe through Instagram, Facebook or Twitter, or pick up a self-help book in Waterstones there is one key message that is fed to us; “Stay positive and look on the bright side.”
This is a wonderful message and can work very well for increasing our mental and emotional health and well-being. However, it leads me to ask the question; “What if there is no bright side and the situation really is as bad as it seems?”
During my empowerment coaching sessions with clients, I teach many techniques in order to help them to take control of their negative thinking styles, language, thought processes and belief systems. All, or most, of these systems when negative or irrational can cause us to think, react or feel extremely negatively which can lead to a decrease in our self-esteem, confidence, stress management, control and overall feelings of empowerment.
For example, if a client is struggling with self-image and constantly worries about their weight despite being in the healthy weight category for their height, this is known in cognitive behavioural therapy as an irrational thought. This is because it is not logical or helpful and can lead to unhealthy behaviours such as anxiety, body dysmorphia, eating disorders or depression. Therefore this irrational belief system and thinking style must be recognised, controlled and changed into a more rational thought process.
However, what if a client is suffering from depression and anxiety because of a bereavement? The negative thoughts, feelings and beliefs associated with this are completely rational! No amount of positive thinking is going to change the situation that, unfortunately, their loved one is no longer with us. So how can their situation be improved?
Kristen Neff of the Greater Good Science Centre at Berkeley University, California, developed a theory of Self Compassion. This is a technique that brings together different factors that can be used when positive thinking, pivoting perception and disputing do not work as the situation really is negative! This is a great technique as, unfortunately, in life, bad things will happen!
This can be achieved by following these three key concepts.
Mindfulness, not over identification
We need to be aware of and notice our suffering and negative emotions. If we don’t do this and ignore the problem, we can not fix the issue. Once we do this we can realise that the situation is causing distress and suffering and that change is needed and we can then start making that change.
Common humanity, not isolation
Suffering is not egocentric, for example, “This only happens to me”. However, as we know most bad things in life happen to all of us at some time. Realising this decreases feelings of negativity towards ourselves, the future and the world (as suggested in Beck’s Negative Cognitive Triad) as we are no longer alone but connected to others. This can also lead to us seeking and accepting support from others rather than “bottling up” our problems.
Self-kindness, not self-judgement or comparison
Treat yourself with the same level of kindness empathy and compassion that you would treat others. This increases feelings of positivity, control and self-esteem. Remember self-compassion is not self-pity, it is supportive and constructive allowing us the strength to improve our situations and ultimately our mental health, well-being and empowerment!
So if you are in a situation that is negative and is making you feel alone and distressed or you think help is impossible, please try these simple steps. Or please contact me for more advice, support or information.
The message we should be giving ourselves is that being positive all of the time is impossible, so knowing what to do when we feel negative is a superpower!