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

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

Doctor of Psychology

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Last Updated on September 10, 2018

Overcoming The Pain Of A Breakup: 3 Suggestions Based On Science

Overcoming The Pain Of A Breakup: 3 Suggestions Based On Science

We thought that the expression ‘broken heart’ was just a metaphor, but science is telling us that it is not: breakups and rejections do cause physical pain. When a group of psychologists asked research participants to look at images of their ex-partners who broke up with them, researchers found that the same brain areas that are activated by physical pain are also activated by looking at images of ex-partners. Looking at images of our ex is a painful experience, literally.[1].

Given that the effect of rejections and breakups is the same as the effect of physical pain, scientists have speculated on whether the practices that reduce physical pain could be used to reduce the emotional pain that follows from breakups and rejections. In a study on whether painkillers reduce the emotional pain caused by a breakup, researchers found that painkillers did help. Individuals who took painkillers were better able to deal with their breakup. Tamar Cohen wrote that “A simple dose of paracetamol could help ease the pain of a broken heart.”[2]

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Just like painkillers can be used to ease the pain of a broken heart, other practices that ease physical pain can also be used to ease the pain of rejections and breakups. Three of these scientifically validated practices are presented in this article.

Looking at images of loved ones

While images of ex-partners stimulate the pain neuro-circuitry in our brain, images of loved ones activate a different circuitry. Looking at images of people who care about us increases the release of oxytocin in our body. Oxytocin, or the “cuddle hormone,” is the hormone that our body relies on to induce in us a soothing feeling of tranquility, even when we are under high stress and pain.

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In fact, oxytocin was found to have a crucial role as a mother is giving birth to her baby. Despite the extreme pain that a mother has to endure during delivery, the high level of oxytocin secreted by her body transforms pain into pleasure. Mariem Melainine notes that, “Oxytocin levels are usually at their peak during delivery, which promotes a sense of euphoria in the mother and helps her develop a stronger bond with her baby.”[3]

Whenever you feel tempted to look at images of your ex-partner, log into your Facebook page and start browsing images of your loved ones. As Eva Ritvo, M.D. notes, “Facebook fools our brain into believing that loved ones surround us, which historically was essential to our survival. The human brain, because it evolved thousands of years before photography, fails on many levels to recognize the difference between pictures and people”[4]

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Exercise

Endorphins are neurotransmitters that reduce our perception of pain. When our body is high on endorphins, painful sensations are kept outside of conscious awareness. It was found that exercise causes endorphins to be secreted in the brain and as a result produce a feeling of power, as psychologist Alex Korb noted in his book: “Exercise causes your brain to release endorphins, neurotransmitters that act on your neurons like opiates (such as morphine or Vicodin) by sending a neural signal to reduce pain and provide anxiety relief.”[5] By inhibiting pain from being transmitted to our brain, exercise acts as a powerful antidote to the pain caused by rejections and breakups.

Meditation

Jon Kabat Zinn, a doctor who pioneered the use of mindfulness meditation therapy for patients with chronic pain, has argued that it is not pain itself that is harmful to our mental health, rather, it is the way we react to pain. When we react to pain with irritation, frustration, and self-pity, more pain is generated, and we enter a never ending spiral of painful thoughts and sensations.

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In order to disrupt the domino effect caused by reacting to pain with pain, Kabat Zinn and other proponents of mindfulness meditation therapy have suggested reacting to pain through nonjudgmental contemplation and acceptance. By practicing meditation on a daily basis and getting used to the habit of paying attention to the sensations generated by our body (including the painful ones and by observing these sensations nonjudgmentally and with compassion) our brain develops the habit of reacting to pain with grace and patience.

When you find yourself thinking about a recent breakup or a recent rejection, close your eyes and pay attention to the sensations produced by your body. Take deep breaths and as you are feeling the sensations produced by your body, distance yourself from them, and observe them without judgment and with compassion. If your brain starts wandering and gets distracted, gently bring back your compassionate nonjudgmental attention to your body. Try to do this exercise for one minute and gradually increase its duration.

With consistent practice, nonjudgmental acceptance will become our default reaction to breakups, rejections, and other disappointments that we experience in life. Every rejection and every breakup teaches us great lessons about relationships and about ourselves.

Featured photo credit: condesign via pixabay.com

Reference

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