Somebody Help Me! 3 Ways in Which We Talk Ourselves into Helplessness
What is your proven method for disrupting negative emotions before they turn into negative emotional states? Would you like to know how you can you walk your child through doing it, step-by-step?
Let's go through the steps first, using research by Psychology Professors Seligman, Reivich and Shatte. There are many models for disrupting negative emotions and thoughts, and all of them involve stepping back for a minute and examining whether our reaction is based on any facts, and if the situation is really as bad as what it seems.
Remember: your job as a parent is to work with your child's limiting beliefs. Introducing even 1% doubt into a limiting belief is the first step towards growing beyond it.
The model we will use is called the ABCDE model.
A = Adversity
Here's what happened today. "Someone at school called me stupid."
B = Belief
Here's what I thought about it when I reacted to it. "This person thinks badly of me and he probably has a point."
C = Consequences
Here are the emotions that I experienced as a result of A and B. "I felt down and defeated."
D = Dispute
Find evidence that helps you dispute your belief. "I've done intelligent things in the past."
Find an alternative way of seeing this situation. "This person overreacted. He might have been upset by something else and took it out on me."
Put it in perspective. "I'm on very good terms with my peers, so this is clearly a one-off event."
E = Energy
Has the disputation change your energy level? What changes in your mood have you experienced? Do you feel more ready to act, should you need to? What courses of action do you see? "I'm more clear about what happened. I know how to act around this person going forward."
Obviously, we do not need to do this any time we have a negative emotion. Negative emotions come and go all the time, and we certainly don't need to be afraid of them. We are talking about situations where a negative emotion persists, and there is a real possibility of slipping into a negative emotional state. There are also situations where a child might need to know whether they need to do something (for example, what to say, or how to behave). It is certainly helpful to support them by walking them through the situation, calming them down, and then discussing possible courses of action.
When you are working through the ABCDE with your child, keep in mind the three P's that Professor Martin Seligman discusses in his excellent book The Optimistic Child (definitely time well spent, if you decide to read it). The three P's separate optimists from pessimists, and they do influence how long we get to be upset over the inevitable slights, insults and general setbacks in life.
Here is the negative version of the three P's:
Personalization - believing that everything that happens to us is our own fault;
Pervasiveness - believing that one negative will color absolutely everything in life;
Permanence - believing that things will never get better.
Here is the positive version of the three P's:
Personalization - believing that bad things sometimes happen to good people, that sometimes people heap undeserved criticism on us, or behave badly towards us through no fault of our own;
Pervasiveness - believing that everyone has areas of life that are working, and some areas that have problems (and these problems help us grow);
Permanence - this too shall pass.
And this concludes our brief course on resilience today.