The Key To Handling Negative Circumstances Lies Within Your Reaction


We've all had something negative happen in our lives. You're feeling stressed, depressed, lonely or maybe even experiencing a revolving door of these and other debilitating emotions.

You normally don't have much of an affinity towards ice cream, but all of a sudden, you're craving some Ben & Jerry's. Maybe you'll pick up a couple of containers on the way home and eat that instead of a normal dinner.

Maybe you usually keep your drinking in moderation when you're out at the bar with your friends, but screw it; let's get another round of shots! And another. And another.

Instead of limiting your videogame playing to a couple of hours, you let yourself get sucked into a digital world. Before you know it, an entire day or weekend has come and gone, and you neglected other things you needed to do.

We've all been there. Because no matter who you are, one of the things that unites all of humanity is our confrontation with negative, challenging life situations.

These can come in an endless number of forms: a bad breakup, the sudden and unexpected death of a family member, getting fired from your dream job and so on.

Likewise, there are many different ways we can choose to react to these circumstances. The problem, however, is that far too often we choose to react to life's challenges in ways that not only don't fix the problem, but often make things worse.

Sure, there's nothing entirely wrong with eating a lot of ice cream in a sitting one day, even though it isn't particularly healthy for you. And getting blackout drunk with your friends isn't the biggest of deals, as long as you get home safe and sound at the end of the night.

But old habits die hard, and single acts of self-damaging escapist behavior can develop into serious issues if they become the rule instead of just the exception.

Let's take alcohol, for example. In Western culture, it's become not only socially acceptable, but in many cases, also socially encouraged, to go get drunk after something bad happens. Billy got dumped by his longtime girlfriend? Let's take him out to the bar!

This might seem inconsequential, but it subliminally reinforces a very dangerous notion that alcohol is somehow a solution to life's problems. (Hint: it's not.)

Replace "alcohol" with "junk food" or "smoking pot" or any number of vices and the argument still remains. If this train of thought becomes habitual, it's easy to see how it could be damaging over a long period of time as an individual repeatedly turns to it in times of duress.

The need to mentally escape from a situation is certainly an understandable one. If a situation can't immediately be resolved, thinking about it nonstop is usually the last thing we want to do.

How, then, should we process life's biggest challenges, and the often overbearing emotions that accompany them? Why not by "escaping" into something positive and beneficial for your life?

Instead of pigging out on ice cream, why not start a new workout routine? Put down the bottle of whisky and pick up the newest book from your favorite author. Use the free time you normally would have spent with your former significant other and hang out with an old friend you haven't seen in ages.

The key is to try to harness the energies of feelings like sadness and anger, and convert them into feelings like accomplishment and fellowship.

Even in the worst of scenarios, where you might feel completely powerless and beyond help, there are always positive decisions that can be made. In his 1946 book, "Man's Search For Meaning," Austrian author Viktor Frankl describes his time living in Nazi-controlled concentration camps during World War II.

Despite being constantly near death and having his family and belongings taken from him, Frankl managed to persevere. He lived on by focusing his thoughts and memories of his wife and the book he intended to write once he was free again.

Frankl showed that, even in the most horrible, dehumanizing of conditions, there is always some kind of silver lining. Now, this article isn't meant to advocate running from your problems. The best way to solve a situation, 99.9 percent of the time, is to be proactive and face it head-on in whichever ways you can.

But 24 hours in a day is a lot, and for the sake of your own sanity, sometimes you need to temporarily focus your attention elsewhere. Why not focus that attention on something you've always wanted to do or will enhance your life in another area?

In many cases, especially with things like reading and exercise, these positive actions can even become healthy routines that develop into staples in your life.

Negative situations in life are unavoidable, but how we choose to react to them goes a long way in determining how we live our lives.

Photo Courtesy: We Heart It