How to Cope with Difficult Times

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There are always bad times in life. Seeing members of the community discussing how to deal with difficult times reminded me that I had a bad time last year. Although the reasons are different, how to adjust the mentality is similar. This article shares with you my knowledge and some of the tools I have used.

External events do not determine your emotions #

To solve the problem, we must first find the root of the problem.

Yes, it was after external events that we were depressed. But to be clear, there is no necessary causality between the two.

It is our inner actions that cause us to be in a bad state. “Not owning it” is a neutral event. What makes us unhappy is the thoughts of “I want it very much” or “I don’t want to lose it”.

I am not saying that you actively choose to be unhappy, but that thoughts are not under our control.

Compare with others #

If you feel that your pain is not from your heart but from actual misfortune, try comparing yourself with others.

Philosopher William B. Irvine reminds us that no matter how bad life is right now, there are millions of people who want to live the life we ​​have.

One way to find these people is to go to places where there is extreme poverty. These people probably don’t make as much annual income as you spend on drinks. Not to mention the solid wood floor, they may not even have a concrete floor in their home, they just built a residence on the dirt. There is no running water, and we have to go outside to fetch water. Since most of these tasks are done by women, when they choose a husband, they will use “how far can I carry 20 kilograms of water” as a condition. Imagine living in such an environment.

Another way, is to imagine meeting your grandma’s grandma. Chances are she’ll be amazed by your life–do you have antibiotics that cure a deadly disease? Can you fly to the other side of the world? Do you have a handheld device that allows you to connect with a distant friend and watch him speak in real time? And on this device, you can also read all the books in the world?

Thinking about it this way, we must not be the unluckiest people in the history of the universe. In other words, we were kind of lucky.

The size of suffering #

Saying this doesn’t mean our pain isn’t real. We all know that a cold and fever are minor illnesses, but when it happens to us, it will be very uncomfortable.

From the perspective of feeling, there may be no distinction between suffering and suffering. Frank, a survivor of a Nazi concentration camp, gave a metaphor: “A person’s suffering is like poison gas. If a certain amount of poison gas is poured into an empty gas chamber, no matter how big the room is, the gas will diffuse completely and evenly. The same is true with suffering, which takes over your soul and consciousness completely, no matter how great or small.” 1

Coping Tools #

With the above understanding of difficulties, we can see that what needs to be solved is not “why am I so miserable”, but how to deal with it psychologically.

But even if you agree with the diagnosis, you may find it difficult to move on from your low mood. Rational thinking tells yourself “it’s nothing” and “I’m already very happy”, and your emotions will still fluctuate constantly, with ups and downs. This is normal.

Fortunately, there are some tools that can help us. Whether taken during a bad moment or as a daily practice, it helps keep yourself in a good mood. After all, it is easier to come out when you are in a good mood.

1. Open awareness

Why does our heart become full whenever we are a little distressed?

One of the reasons is that I hold on to that emotion in my heart and persist in it. To use Frank’s metaphor of a closed space, our minds have enclosed themselves, and nothing else can get in. But if we stay aware, we will find that the world is big, and our hearts always have room for more things.

In the words of meditation teacher James Low: “Even when something sad happens and someone you love leaves you, the bird on the branch is still singing. If you have room in your heart for that bird, your mood will Much better. But if you kill the bird inside, you have to live with the sadness, the bitterness and the resentment. It doesn’t have to happen…even if you’re surrounded by darkness, the light is still there.”

As the saying goes, the sun will always rise tomorrow. I later learned that it’s not to be understood with logic (who doesn’t), but to be experienced – if you can just get out and let the world unfold before you, you’ll see that good things are always over there.

2. Take it as a challenge

Life has its ups and downs, and when you think about it, there never seems to be a moment when nothing is wrong. And you probably don’t want to really have no problems, because then life would be too boring to be meaningful.

Ask yourself, “Am I who I want to be?”

Do I hope that I am a person who daydreams about the future, misses the past, and does not make good use of the present, or do I hope that I am a person who can still live every day despite uncertainty and even frustration?

The basic difference between an ordinary man and a warrior is that a warrior takes everything as a challenge while an ordinary man takes everything as a blessing or a curse.

Ordinary people see everything that happens as either a curse or a blessing, while true warriors see everything as a challenge.

The same is true for business. Former Intel CEO Andy Grove said, “Bad businesses are destroyed by crises, good businesses survive, and great businesses grow because of it.” 2 3

I made up a mantra for myself: “These obstacles are my life.”

3. Mental exercises

There are also plenty of exercises that science has shown to be effective.

For example meditation. In addition to meditation in general, you can also practice:

  • Negative Visualization: imagine yourself losing what you have ;
  • Last Time Meditation: imagine yourself using something or experiencing something for the last time;
  • Trans-life Meditation: Imagine yourself as someone who wants to live their own lives. Imagine yourself living in a poor area without flush toilets, or living two hundred years ago when science and technology were still very backward.

Keep a gratitude journal, remembering the people you are grateful for and the things that surprise you. Gratitude can make you more courageous to face difficulties.

These are abilities worth practicing over the long term. Like exercising, it’s best not to wait until you’re sick to spend time. Meditating for ten minutes a day may seem like no progress, but it can build up our mental abilities over time.

Of course, the basis of psychology is the body, sleep well, eat healthy, exercise more, and get in touch with nature. You can read about these in other places, so I won’t repeat them here. It’s also important to have emotional support, so don’t forget to talk to your family and friends.

Recalling that Wen Hao shared his mentality exercises with me, it is very suitable as a summary:

Take the difficulties that life gives me as practice, train my awareness, remind me to find solutions, and let me actively maintain a good state in the face of difficulties.

  1. “Life Meaning” ↩

  2. Bad companies are destroyed by crisis. Good companies survive them. Great companies are improved by them. ↩

  3. Obstacle is the Way ↩

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