Guys, imagine your worst breakup. The girl of your dreams smashes your hopes into a million little pieces. You're devastated beyond consolation. You need relief. We've all done it. We went out drinking on the town to drown the reality of our failures or to nurse a broken heart. We crave the warm numb of a stiff drink. It's not a long-term countermeasure to our loss but a necessary emotional bandage. Arriving at the bar, an incredible blonde (see above) sends an inviting smile in your direction, but you miss your opportunity shackled to your dark yesterdays.
Ladies, same situation. Your Mr. Right unceremoniously dumps you. A group of your closest girlfriends rallies to your side. They mandate an evening out to commiserate two wasted years with the insensitive cade. Arriving at the bar, a tall, dark, and handsome man in a tailored suit looks your way with a wry smile of intent, but you miss your chance stuck in the quicksand of the past.
Suffering the slings and arrows of romantic misfortune, we pray to see our stumbles, missteps, and failures in the future tense. We want to see beyond the tender tension of our momentary pain and suffering into a better future precisely because of our loss. And we wish to fully recognize our setbacks as the perfect stepping stones to a better tomorrow. But how?
"All life is an experiment. The more experiments you make, the better."
—RALPH WALDO EMERSON
My inspiration and title for this post came from listening to Cole Swindell's "Ain't Worth the Whiskey." Songwriters, by their nature, create from the heart often as a cathartic salve on their hurts, wounds, and disappointments. We identify with the aspirational angst of a song like Swindell's offering a little get back to the one who hurt us. Punch play and give the song a listen while you read on.
I don't care that you done me wrong
'Cause I've already moved on
I don't care what his name is
Girl, it is what it is
I won't waste a dime or the bartender's time
Tryna catch a buzz, over the thought of us
But I'll drink to a country song
To another long work week gone
And I'll raise my glass to a long lost buddy I ain't seen
I might stay for one more round
Or I might close this place down
But don't think for a second I'm out to drown your memory
Baby, you ain't worth the whiskey
The song taps into our profound need to be defiant in the face of rejection. According to long-held beliefs, divorce (breakups) is #2 on the most stressful event in our lives list, just behind the death of loved ones. An extended period of grieving and reflection is de rigueur. Consequently, love's lament is the source of countless songs, poems, and stories. Our literature and mythology are replete with such long-suffering dramas. Think Romeo and Juliet. Talk about unhappy endings. Our culture suggests the vicissitudes of romance should mortify us. But should we be? Can the stress of relationship change be good for us?
What if we alter our perception of reality, making our ex an insignificant "usher," leading us to the one person who will truly love us? Our forever person. Positive psychology teaches while in the throws of heartbreak, we should practice random acts of kindness, dance more, and tap into the "post-traumatic bliss" conjured up by remembering we are not dead. And the sun will rise tomorrow.
In "Super Better," Jane McGonigal, Ph.D., offers three cornerstones to being more resilient in the face of debilitating setbacks. She says, 1) You are stronger than you know. 2) Potential allies surround you. And 3) You are the hero of your own story. In the simplest terms, your mindset matters.
In addition to the necessity of a mindset transformation, consider this. What if we have been reading our signals all wrong?
A common thread running through our work at Beyond the Hype is the notion of shifting your awareness to life's signals. Beyond the noisy drone of the agenda-driven information flow, science is making huge strides in refining and redefining the human experience. Scientists are overthrowing prevailing orthodoxy under the loud rush of media spin every day. The advancement of human knowledge isn't dramatic enough for big media's business model, so often, critical revelations are glossed over or never mentioned. Beyond the Hype exists for that reason. Our posts always endeavor to shift your awareness and perspective.
In "The Upside of Stress: Why Stress Is Good for You, and How to Get Good at It," Kelly McGonigal, Ph.D., suggests that stress can transform a threat into a challenge. In her book, she asserts, "Viewing the stress response as a resource can transform the physiology of fear into the biology of courage. It can turn a threat into a challenge and help you do your best under pressure." Even when the stress doesn't feel helpful, like in the case of anxiety, welcoming it can transform it into better aspects like more energy, confidence, and a greater willingness to take action.
"You can apply this strategy in your life anytime you notice signs of stress. When you feel your heart pounding or your breath quickening, realize that it is your body's way of trying to give you more energy. If you notice tension in your body, remind yourself that the stress response gives you access to your strength. Sweaty palms? Remember what it felt like to go on your first date—palms sweat when you're close to something you want. If you have butterflies in your stomach, know that they signify meaning. Your digestive tract is lined with millions of nerve cells responding to your thoughts and emotions. Butterflies are your gut's way of saying, "This matters." Let yourself remember why this particular moment matters to you."
"Whatever the sensations of stress are, worry less about trying to make them go away and focus more on what you will do with the energy, strength, and drive that stress gives you." Your body provides you access to all your resources to help you overcome any challenge."
When stress assaults you, take a deep breath to calm down. Stop and sense the tingly bristle of the energy made available to you. Then put that energy to use, and ask yourself, "What action can I take, or what choice can I make that is consistent and congruent with my current goals?"
The answers flowing out of your consciousness will surprise you.
In summary, you have the power to shift your awareness and perspective of the stress experience caused by a failed coupling. In the smoldering ruins of your last relationship, you can be energized. Your present and future self need you, your past self doesn't.
McGonigal's revelation emerged from a 2011 study reporting "high amounts of stress and the perception of that stress" negatively impacted physical and mental health. Individuals "who perceived stress" and reported a large amount of stress had an increased risk of premature death. Live's disruption of our status quo and the stress it generates can be deadly. Or stress can make you stronger. McGonigal realized that your perception mattered the most. It's up to you.
Social scientists Kelly and Jane McGonigal are outstanding researchers who blew me away with the simplicity of their TED talks. Accidently experiencing the twin's presentations back to back even though they were recorded a year apart, I realized I wasn't seeing the same woman with different hair colors. They're twins. These two devoted scientists rocked TED and left me loving my role on the frontiers of knowledge, hunting for ideas that might change your life.
Kelly McGonigal's books, The Upside of Stress: Why Stress Is Good for You, and How to Get Good at It, and The Willpower Instinct: How Self-Control Works, Why It Matters, and What You Can Do to Get More of It, along with her sister Jane McGonigal's SuperBetter: The Power of Living Gamefully and Reality Is Broken: Why Games Make Us Better and How They Can Change the World are must-reads for those who wish to change their experience. I read all four books in a matter of days researching this article. Ladies, thank you both for your engaging TED talks and incredible books.
Lastly, but never least, the beautiful blonde on this post's masthead is the very talented actress Ms. Alice Eve. For the record, Ms. Eve, it would take me a whiskey or two to get over you. Thank you for brightening up my post with your lovely smile.
Until next time. Travel safe.