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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

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

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Published on May 26, 2020

7 Most Effective Problem Solving Techniques That Smart People Use

7 Most Effective Problem Solving Techniques That Smart People Use

Problems are, by their very nature, problematic. There are life problems, work problems, creative problems, and relationship problems. When we’re lucky, intuition takes over, and we solve a problem right away. When we’re not so lucky, we get stuck.

We might spend weeks or even months obsessing over how to write that term paper, get out of debt, or win back the love of our life. But instead of obsessing, let’s look at some effective problem solving techniques that people in the know rely on.

Ideation Vs Evaluation

It’s important to first understand and separate two stages of creativity before we look at effective problem solving techniques. Ideation is like brainstorming. It’s the stage of creativity where we’re looking for as many possible solutions as we can think of. There’s no judgment or evaluation of ideas at this stage. More is more.

After we’ve come up with as many solutions as possible, only then can we move onto the evaluation stage. This is when we analyze each possible solution and think about what works and what doesn’t. Here’s when all those good ideas from ideation rise to the top and the outlandish and impractical ones are abandoned.

7 Problem Solving Techniques That Work

Everyone has different ways of solving problems. Some are more creative, some are more organized. Some prefer to work on problems alone, others with a group. Check out the problem solving techniques below and find one that works for you.

1. Lean on Your Squad

The first of our seven problem solving techniques is to surround yourself with people you trust. Sometimes problems can be solved alone, but other times, you need some help.

There’s a concept called emergence that begins to explain why groups may be better for certain kinds of problem solving. Steven Johnson describes emergence as bottom up system organization.[1] My favorite example is an ant colony. Ants don’t have a president or boss telling them what to do. Instead, the complicated organization of the ant colony comes out of each individual ant just fulfilling their biological destiny.

Group creativity can also take on an emergent quality. When individuals really listen to, support, and add onto each other’s ideas, the sum of that group creativity can be much more than what any individual could have created on their own.

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Therefore, if you are struggling to solve a problem, you may want to find a group of people with whom you can collaborate, so you can start riffing with them about possible solutions.

2. Regulate Your Emotions

The next of the problem solving techniques is to be honest about how you’re feeling. We can’t solve problems as efficiently when we’re stressed out or upset, so starting with some emotional self-awareness goes a long way in helping us problem solve.

Dr. Daniel Siegel famously tells us to “Name it to tame it.” [2] He’s talking about naming our feelings, which offers us a better chance of regulating ourselves. I have to know that I’m stressed or upset if I want to calm down quickly in order to get back to a more optimal problem-solving state.

After you know how you’re feeling, you can take steps to regulate that feeling. If you’re feeling stressed out or upset, you can take a walk or try breathing exercises. Mindfulness exercises can also help you regain your sense of presence.

3. Listen

One thing that good problem solvers do is listen. They collect all the information they can and process it carefully before even attempting to solve the problem.

It’s tempting to jump right in and start problem solving before the scope of the problem is clear. But that’s a mistake.

Smart problem solvers listen carefully in order to get as many points of view and perspectives as possible. This allows them to gain a better understanding of the problem, which gives them a huge advantage in solving that problem.

4. Don’t Label Ideas as Bad…Yet

The fourth of the seven problem solving techniques is to gather as many possible solutions as you can. There are no bad ideas…yet.

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Think back to the two stages of creativity. When we are in the ideation stage, we shouldn’t be evaluating each other’s ideas, input, and possible solutions.

When we evaluate, judge, and criticize during the ideation stage, we inadvertently hamper creativity. One possible outcome of evaluating during ideation is creative suppression.[3]

When someone responds to someone else’s creative input with judgment or criticism, creative suppression can occur if the person who had the idea shuts down because of that judgment or criticism.

Imagine you’re at a meeting brainstorming ways to boost your sales numbers. You suggest hiring a new team member, but your colleague rolls their eyes and says that can’t happen since the numbers are already down.

Now, your colleague may be 100% correct. However, their comment might make you shut down for the rest of the meeting, which means your team won’t be getting any more possible solutions from you.

If your colleague had waited to evaluate the merits of your idea until after the brainstorming session, your team could have come up with more possible solutions to their current problem.

During the ideation stage, more is more. We want as many ideas as possible, so reserve the evaluation until there’s no more ideating left to do.

Another trick for better ideating is to “Yes And” each other’s ideas[4] In improvisation, there’s a principle known as “Yes And.” It means that one improviser should agree with the other’s idea for the scene and then add a new detail onto that reality.

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For example, if someone says, “I can’t hear over your loud music,” the other person needs to go along with that idea and then add onto it. They might say, “Sorry, I’ll turn it down, but I don’t think everyone else here at the club will appreciate it.”

Now the scene is getting interesting. We’re in a club, and the DJ is going to turn the music down. Playing “Yes And” with each other made the scene better by filling in details about who and where the improvisers are.

Yes Anding also works well during ideation sessions. Since we’ve already established that we shouldn’t be evaluating each other’s ideas yet, Yes Anding gives us something we can do. We can see the merits of each other’s ideas and try to build on them. This will make all of our possible solutions more fully realized than a simple laundry list.

5. Approach Problems With Playfulness

Approaching problem solving too seriously can exacerbate the problem. Sometimes we get too fixated on finding solutions and lose a sense of playfulness and fun.

It makes sense. When there are deadlines and people counting on us, we can try to force solutions, but stepping back and approaching problems from a more playful perspective can lead to more innovative solutions.

Think about how children approach problem solving. They don’t have the wealth of wisdom that decades on this planet give. Instead, they play around and try out imaginative and sometimes unpractical approaches.

That’s great for problem solving. Instead of limiting ourselves to how things have always been done, a sense of play and playfulness can lead us to truly innovative, out-of-the-box solutions.

6. Let the Unconscious Mind Roam

This may seem counterintuitive, but another technique to try when you become too fixated on a problem is to take a break to let the unconscious mind take over for a bit.

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Our conscious brain can only handle a limited amount of information at a time. Plus, it’s energetically exhausting to use our conscious brain for problem solving. Think about a time when you were studying for a test. It’s draining.[5]

But we’re in luck. There’s another part of our brain that isn’t draining and can integrate tons more information at a time—our unconscious.

This is why you come up with your best ideas in the shower or on your way to work or while you’re jogging. When you give your conscious brain a break, your unconscious has a chance to sift through mounds of information to arrive at solutions.

It’s how I write my articles. With my conscious brain, I think about which article I’m going to write. My problem is how to write it, so once I think carefully about the topic, I take a break. Then, the structure, sources, content, and sometimes phrasing happens in fits and starts while I’m not thinking about the article at all. It happens when I’m lying in bed, showering, and walking in the woods.

The key is to get in the habit of practicing this alternation between conscious and unconscious problem solving and to absolutely not force solutions. Sometimes, you just need to take a little break.

7. Be Candid

The last of the problem solving techniques happens during the evaluation stage. If we’re going to land on the best possible solution to our problems, we have to be able to openly and honestly evaluate ideas.

During the evaluating stage, criticism and feedback need to be delivered honestly and respectfully. If an idea doesn’t work, that needs to be made clear. The goal is that everyone should care about and challenge each other. This creates an environment where people take risks and collaborate because they trust that everyone has their best interest in mind and isn’t going to pull any punches.

Final Thoughts

In order to come up with the best solutions for problems, ideation and evaluation have to be two distinct steps in the creative process. Then, you should tap into some of the above techniques to get your ideas organized and your problems solved.

Hopefully, these seven problem solving techniques will help your problems be less…problematic.

More Tips for Problem Solving

Featured photo credit: Daria Nepriakhina via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Steven Johnson: Emergence
[2] Dr. Dan Siegel: The whole-brain child
[3] American Psychological Association: Creative mortification
[4] Play Your Way Sane: And What?: Yes And
[5] Daniel Kahneman: Thinking, Fast and Slow

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