Do you ever have the kind of week where you ask yourself what evil karma you must have perpetrated in some other life so as to deserve such a shower of bullshit to be rained down upon you?

I’ve just come off a couple of wild-ass–WTF weeks of life, ya’ll. So many randomly negative things happened that my head is still spinning. Yet as stressful as it’s been I noticed something positive too.

Years ago, when I had a bad week my mind would go directly to the following line of questioning:

  • What did I do wrong in order to deserve this?
  • Can anything ever go right?
  • Why does this kind of thing always happen to me?
  • Am I cursed?
  • Am I just doomed? Or a loser, who can never do anything right? Will I just fail at everything my whole life?

That’s some next-level negative-self-shit-talking, huh? It used to be my impulse, my instinct, to kind of catastrophize. Woe is me. Not for no reason, I mean. I’d had more than my fair share of bad things happen to me, but still, the deep dark hole of mental despair did NOT do anything to help the situation.

As saccharine as this is going to sound, there is some serious power in being positive…or at least being neutral if you can’t muster the positivity.

What’s Guilt & Shame Got to Do With It?

Brené Brown describes the difference between guilt and shame in these terms:

Guilt is the negative feeling you have when you did something hurtful/wrong, etc. and feel the sting of it, and know you need to do better.

Shame is the negative feeling you have when you did something hurtful/wrong, etc. and feel the sting of it and tell yourself you’re the worst, damaged, no good, worthless, etc.

So what do you call it when something happens TO you–something you have no control over like say, your iPhone dying and your iCloud getting corrupted and years of files despite your best backup efforts, or maybe your dog gets sick and requires hospitalization (two of the personal gems I experienced this week)?

Maybe we should call the positive and negative feelings I started this email with Catastrophizing and Positive Spinning, or maybe Self-loathing and Acceptance? Or maybe you have some better terms. But you get the idea.

The Same Root

Whether you’re internalizing what happened to you because you doubt yourself or feel like a victim of life, or you accept what happened and move on, while still taking care to process your feelings of hurt, frustration, etc–I think these emotion options stem from the same kind of insecurity that shame does.

What I’m getting at here is something I think we can all relate to, especially during this wild-ass time we’re living in.

We always have a choice, even if it doesn’t feel like it, to internalize, catastrophize, or process, accept, and take action.

Speaking as someone who lived years in the zone of the former, the latter is a much better way to live. But like any other longterm change it takes years of practice to make it stick. And of course, nobody’s perfect; it’s not like I never get those ideas, it’s just a lot more rare these days. And that’s a relief.

These days, the thoughts that come up for me are more often along these lines:

  • Shit, this sucks. Okay, how do I keep going toward what I want even though this happened?
  • I need to vent/cry/scream/write it out, whatever, so I can move through this emotion and come back to a more peaceful, logical place.
  • Okay, I can’t control this situation, so how can I retain control of myself so I can see things clearly and move forward?
  • If this was bound to happen, at least it didn’t [fill in the blank with something worse].
  • Is there anything I can do to prevent this from happening again? Or be more prepared if it does?
  • Give yourself a break. This is really fucking hard. Breathe. Take some time for yourself and your sanity.
  • Welp, you’ve survived XYZ in the past, you’ll survive this too.
  • What, or how can I learn from this?
  • How must people feel who go through this, have experienced this, or have it worse?* I’m going to show them more compassion. I’m going to remember this for later.

It’s a lot easier to deal with a catastrophe with a positive mindset than it is to deal with it while also compounding the catastrophe in your own head. 

*It’s important to note, however, that ignoring your emotions, pretending like it doesn’t matter, or reassuring yourself that someone has it worse aren’t healthy ways of coping. Nobody’s saying to DENY what’s going on. Acknowledging and Processing it is waaaaay different than denying it.

If you’re experiencing your own personal brand of shitstorm right now–and who isn’t, amirite–there’s a whole section of blog posts I wrote about how to get through. And also, I’d like to share this quote that my stepmom sent me this week. It’s a good one to hold on to right now.

“You’ve dealt with an unprecedented health crisis that has paralyzed the planet. You’ve had to alter the way you do just about everything. The level of difficulty of your current life is a few steps above Batman. Give yourself a damn break.”

-John Pavlovitz

Go ahead, give yourself a break!