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In the Scheme of Life are You a Wallower or a Survivor?

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In the Scheme of Life are You a Wallower or a Survivor?

In life there are generally two types of people and their personalities are revealed when they experience a major turmoil, trial, or trauma in life. People either kick into survivalist mode and find the power within to get through and find the best in the situation or they wallow in self pity because of their circumstances. How you react to the major difficulties in life will show your true colors. You will either show yourself to be a survivor or a self pity wallower. Being a wallower will keep you from being successful, as you will have a tendency to think negatively and not pursue your goals because of a self defeating attitude that comes from wallowing in self pity. In order to be a success in life, whether in love, career, parenthood, or whatever path you choose, you need to recognize your self defeating wallowing tendencies, so that you can eliminate them. Wallowing will only hold you back from achieving your goals and dreams.

Definition of a Wallower

A person who wallows in self pity is a person who ruminates on their life circumstances and prevents themselves from moving forward in life because they hold onto these feelings of self pity. They feel that the world has done them wrong, so they get stuck in the rut of self pity, which is wallowing. The self pity can be generated from a variety of different things.

You have probably encountered a “medical problem wallower” at some point in your life. This person has a tendency to talk incessantly about their medical issues, as if they are the only person who has ever had something physically wrong with them in life. They will complain, talk incessantly, and in some cases even show photos on social media of their medical ailments. All in hopes of pity from others. They wallow in their medical problems, rather than embracing the cure or solution to their problem and moving forward.

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Another example of a type of wallower is the “political wallower.” This is the person who seems to be stuck in a never ending political debate loop. Their world seems to revolve around a political dimlema that may or may not even directly affect the individual personally. They are so hung up on this political wallowing that it overshadows their happiness on a regular basis. You have probabably seen this type of person on social media. This person could improve their levels of happiness and success in life by not debating politics on social media and instead go on living life outside of social media (i.e. take a break from Facebook and connect with people face to face without the political jabber). Don’t allow yourself to get sucked into polical wallowing.

These are just two examples of types of wallowers. You probably have encountered many others in life. Just think of a problem and a person that remains fixated on that problem to their detriment and they are most likely a self pity wallower.

The worst kind of wallower is a universal wallower. This simply means a person wallows about generally all areas of their life. They have a “woe is me” attitude that permeates all areas of their life. This type of person will come off to others as being very negative or a “downer.” In reality, when someone is so fixated on wallowing, there may be a deeper issue such as chronic depression. Professional help should be sought when this is the case.

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This list can go on and on of reasons that people wallow in self pity. The predominate factor in self pity wallowing is that the wallowing stems from a problem or dilemma in life. For some it a legitimate tragedy such as the death of a loved one or the loss of a job. The question to ask yourself is, “Am I wallowing because of something or someone in my life?” If you are, then today is the time to turn things around. Stop feeling sorry for yourself. Start being solution focused instead of being problem focused. Tell yourself you can move on and that you don’t need pity from yourself or others. If you feel you are unable to move past the problem on your own then find a support group or seek professional help from a counselor or therapist. You will thank yourself later for making that decision to move forward and end the wallowing.

Definition of a Survivor

Have you ever met someone and thought they are amazing because in spite of all that they have been through in life (such as the death of a spouse, loss of a child, or being the victim of a violent crime) they seem to come out victorious or at least positive at the other end of things? This type of person has a “can-do” and “will-do” attitude that can almost be infectious. They try to see that their troubles were not “all for naught,” but that they served a higher purpose for their life. This type of person is a survivor. They seek to find the best in a situation or at least recognize that their trials and troubles have molded them into a stronger and better person. They don’t ruminate or wallow on their problems; instead they use them to their advantage.

A survivor is the direct opposite of a self pity wallower. A survivor seeks to find solutions and rememdy to a situation when conflict or troubles arise. A survivor’s mentality means that a person does not get stuck in the past along with a tragedy that may have occurred in their life. They process their grief in a healthy manner and then move forward and focus on the present and future, rather than the past.

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A loss of job, the death of the loved one, a medical diagnosis, or a move to another town can trigger the grieving process, among other reasons. Knowing that the grieving process is just that, a process, can help a person recognize the phases of the grief, so that they can move forward afterwards. Here are the stages of the grieving process according to PsychCentral: “The 5 stages of grief and loss are: 1. Denial and isolation; 2. Anger; 3. Bargaining; 4. Depression; 5. Acceptance. People who are grieving do not necessarily go through the stages in the same order or experience all of them.” What is important to being identified as a survivor is that you don’t get stuck in any of these phases of grief. You move through these phases in a healthy manner, so that you can be focused on life ahead and not life behind.

There are also some characteristics that can be generalized among survivors which include having an attitude of gratitude in life, focusing on the big picture of life rather than getting hung up on smaller problems, and they handle their life setbacks rather than just complaining about the setbacks. Most importantly, a survivor is a person who tries to find the meaning or purpose in their set backs and trials that they encounter in life. Doing so helps them remain positive and helps them recognize that their struggles help them become better, stronger, wiser, and more resilient.

What Will You Chose to Be?

You can chose whether to be a survivor or a wallower. That choice will be presented to you when you are thrown into difficult life situations such as divorce, death of a family member, loss of a good job, or any other major life tragedy. You need to decide how you will handle those encounters before they hit you, so you can mentally and emotionally prepare yourself to survive rather than wallow in self pity.

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You may be a wallower simply by thinking, “yes, I get what you are saying, but you don’t know what I have personally been through.” I don’t need to know. Anyone can become a survivor regardless of how awful their circumstance or tragedy. Here are numerous great stories and examples of survivors: http://www.howlifeunfolds.com/lettersofpeace#authors.

If others can survive horrific situations and use it to become great people, then you can too. It’s all about making up your mind to be a survivor and not stay in a wallow of self pity. Self pity is not love. Love is telling yourself and others that they can rise above tragedy, loss, and horrible circumstances to become better, stronger, and more resilient.

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Dr. Magdalena Battles

A Doctor of Psychology with specialties include children, family relationships, domestic violence, and sexual assault

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Published on November 23, 2020

How to Develop Big Picture Thinking And Think More Clearly

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How to Develop Big Picture Thinking And Think More Clearly

Your neighbors downstairs are playing loud music. Again. How do they not get tired of partying? And why do they choose songs with such a heavy downbeat that the glass in your cupboard is vibrating every two seconds? What can you do to get some peace that you deserve? What should you?

Human mind tends to go in circles whenever faced with a problem without a clear solution. It becomes easy to forget the big picture and get lost in anger and self-pity, wasting our precious time, energy and enthusiasm.

Would it not be nice if we always remembered to put things in perspective?

Would it not be more efficient to face all kinds of problems, from tiny annoyances to life-changing emergencies, with a calm demeanor, sharp focus and fearless determination to promptly take the most efficient action possible?

Alas, humans are not like that. All too often we let anxiety or greed get the best of us and make a rushed or shortsighted decision that we quickly come to regret. Other times, we spend weeks or months at an impasse, rehashing the exact same arguments, unable to accept the compromise required to move forward with any of the available options.

Buddhists talk about getting lost in the “small self.” In this state of mind, we literally forget the big picture and focus on the small one. We start taking our daily problems too personally and, paradoxically, becomes less capable of solving them in an efficient manner. And this is the opposite of big picture thinking.

Let me share with you a story related to big picture thinking…

In 1812, the French army of Napoleon Bonaparte invaded Russia.[1] After a decisive Battle of Borodino, the capture of Moscow and therefore Napoleon’s victory in the war seemed inevitable.

Unexpectedly, the Russian Commander-in-Chief Mikhail Kutuzov made a highly controversial decision of retreating and allowing the French to capture Moscow. Much of the population had been evacuated taking supplies with them. The city itself was set on fire and large parts of it burned into the ground.

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After waiting in vain for Russia to capitulate, Napoleon had to retreat in the middle of a bitterly cold winter. He won the battle but lost the war. The campaign ended in a disaster and the near destruction of the French army.

What can we learn from this historical lesson?

1. Focus on the Consequences

Napoleon focused on the important part: capturing Moscow. Nobody could accuse him of thinking small. Yet he overlooked that the Russian army could still fight even after giving up the country’s most important city.

So was Moscow not an important target after all?

Success expert Brian Tracy has a litmus test: things are important to the extent that they have important consequences. Things are unimportant to the extent that they have no important consequences.[2]

When faced with a choice, ask yourself, what would be the consequences of each option?

  • Want to spend an hour studying or watching the new series on Netflix? What would be the consequences of each option? Netflix can sometimes be a better choice, but it helps to put things in perspective.
  • Want to maintain your apartment by yourself or to pay a cleaning service? Would would be the consequences of each option?
  • Want to meet up for coffee with this acquaintance of yours or catch up on your work instead? What would be the consequences of each option?

The choice can be different for different people. An aspiring filmmaker may have a legitimate reason for choosing Netflix. Personally, cleaning your own apartment can be relaxing and nourishing even if the economics of hiring a cleaner looks compelling because you are earning a high hourly rate.

This is where you will need a basic idea of who you are — what are your goals, values and aspirations.

2. Flip Defeat Into Victory

Kutuzov managed to turn Russia’s defeat into a historic victory by recasting the problem in a wider context: losing Moscow need not mean losing the war.

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Despite the symbolic meaning attached to the Kremlin, the churches, the priceless treasures that had been stored in the city for centuries, the outcome of the campaign was ultimately determined by the strength of the remaining armies.

If you can adopt this result-oriented perspective, many of your personal defeats may be flipped into victories as well. Few events in a human life are absolutely good or absolutely bad, and it usually takes many years to recognize in retrospect, what role a particular encounter did play in your story.

Therefore we have every reason to look for the good in the things that happen to us.

This is a very practical attitude, far from baseless “positive thinking.” After all, if something unfortunate has happened to you and you find good sides in this circumstance, you will then be better positioned to take advantage of those good sides.

Say your noisy neighbors are affecting your productivity. What if it is a blessing in disguise? How can you turn this defeat into a victory?

  • Perhaps you are too serious about life and could learn how to have more fun. Join your neighbors or go out for a walk instead of working;
  • Perhaps you only wanted to be productive while instead procrastinated on social media. Now that your procrastination has been interrupted, stop and acknowledge this much greater obstacle to your productivity;
  • Perhaps you are too sensitive to interference. Take this opportunity to practice ignoring the noise and doing your best anyway;
  • Perhaps you have a victim mentality and the feeling of unfairness drains you more than any actual nuisance your neighbors might have caused. Try accepting this lapse in your productivity the way you would accept bad weather.

Get used to finding opportunities in your problems. This is the quintessential big picture thinking.

3. Ask for Advice

Both Napoleon and Kutuzov had trusted advisers to discuss their affairs with. In general, getting a different perspective — or several — can only help inform your understanding and lead to better decisions. Just ensure that the people giving you advice are competent in the particular area where experience is needed.

Paying money for advice can also be a wise investment. Lawyers, tax accountants, medical doctors spend years learning how to assist people like yourself in living more successful, more fulfilling lives.

A quick legal consultation can save you a fortune down the line or even keep you out of big trouble. A medical check-up can uncover potential issues and help keep you healthy and active for years to come.

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Even big, complex dilemmas at your job or in your romantic relationship can be tackled more effectively by partnering up with a coach or a therapist or, of course, with the help of a wise friend.

4. Beware of Biased Advice

Many imperfect decisions occur in response to an imperfect piece of advice that you choose to act on. This advice often comes from a biased party.

For example, we are often encouraged to buy something that we supposedly need:

  • Protect your skin from harmful UV rays by using a special lotion.
  • Fortify your health by taking multivitamins.
  • Connect with your friends by sending them elaborate gifts.
  • Brighten your weekend by consuming a delicious pastry.
  • Become more productive by getting a faster computer.

However, most purchases are unnecessary.

Some, such as the sunscreen, do have legitimate benefits when used properly.[3] Others, such as multivitamins, only make a difference for a small group of people.[4]

Advertisers of those benefits inevitably want to narrow your focus in order to overstate the importance of their product. They frequently present it as the only solution to your problem, whether real or imaginary.

After all,

  • Skin can also be protected from the sun by wearing appropriate clothing.
  • Health can be better fortified by consuming a balanced diet and getting regular exercise.
  • Spending time or talking on the phone with your friends is the foremost way of connecting with them, and it is virtually free.
  • Your weekend can be brightened by doing something that you love.
  • You can become more productive by focusing on the tasks that have the most important consequences. A faster computer can, in fact, decrease productivity by making it easier to multitask and by enabling your favorite distractions.

There are other sources of imperfect advice. Politicians also frequently want us to focus on a particular “big picture,” to the exclusion of the alternatives.

Even loving parents can be guilty of the same. They can advise their children to pick a career path that is safe and respectable, based on their “big picture” that in life one has to make a living. A child may disagree, however, based on another “big picture” that one’s life has to have meaning and fulfillment.

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Bottom Line

It is human nature to make rushed, emotional decisions based on incomplete information, then regret those decisions later on.

You can protect yourself from poor judgment by striving to attain the big picture when careful consideration is called for.

Focus on the consequences of your decision before considering how you feel about it.

Play with the cards you’ve been dealt, but look for opportunities in each situation and you will find them.

Ask knowledgeable mentors for advice, but beware of biased people who have an opinion, but do not necessarily have your best interest in mind.

Yet remember, true big picture thinking comes from hard-won experience. Legendary military commanders Napoleon Bonaparte and Mikhail Kutuzov were both injured on the battlefield.

Clear thinking comes from putting your big picture to the test of reality.

More Tips on Thinking Clearly

Featured photo credit: Haneen Krimly via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Wikipedia: French invasion of Russia
[2] Brian Tracy: No Excuses!: The Power of Self-Discipline
[3] American Academy of Dermatology: Say Yes to Sun Protection
[4] Harvard Medical School: Do multivitamins make you healthier?

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