Author Archives: kberman

Facing Adversity is the Testing Ground For Our Self-Esteem

We generally have adversity thrust upon us. One minute, life is smooth and easy, and, in the flick of an eye, everything changes. The main component of life is change. Yet, we often spend much time with ‘how could this happen”. Spending energy on why is a waste of time in the throes of upheaval. We’d do much better to begin going over solutions. A part of me is thrilled that I get this opportunity to spread my wings at the same time a part of me says, “oh, no”.

How some other authors faced change:

1.   From Allison Mac on Think Simple Now:

“The thing about life changing events is that they tend to leave you feeling naked and (more than a little) fearful.  If you try to squash that fear on your own you may be left feeling very alone and vulnerable.”

“In my experience, the best way to deal with the fear of adversity is to openly talk about it with others.  Although by nature I tend to be a fairly private person, I will admit that there are times when keeping things to just yourself are simply detrimental to your health and your mental state.”

“In a case such as a huge loss or a major life upheaval, it is very important to ask and accept the help of those who love you.  In this circumstance, I knew that if I had allowed myself to be buried away, I may never see the light of day again.”

“For this reason I began doing these three things:

1.  Connect with Family

“I quickly formed closer relationships with the remainder of my family.  My family is small, and consists of two brothers and my father—none of whom live close to me.”

“My older brother was the most emotionally available. We spent hours on Skype daily just talking and checking in with each other.”

“With my other brother and my dad, I had made sure to email more often and be open about what I was experiencing.  This also allowed them to be more comfortable with opening up candidly with me.

2.  Stay Close with Friends”

“On days when I felt like seeing no one and doing nothing, I forced myself to call a good friend and talked—even if it was about nothing.”

“Just having that social connection is vital to keep from losing your mind.  If a friend offers to take you out… GO.  On several occasions I went out to dinner with friends when I didn’t feel like going, but found myself feeling much better—better than I had felt in months.”

“I’ve learned that it is extremely important to stay close with friends and accept any help they may offer. It will help you move forward at a faster rate.”

3.  Write in a Journal

“I have always loved to write but never been much into journaling.  That all changed the day my mom died.  I have written in a journal every single day since her passing and it has become my biggest life saver.”

“I used to speak to my mom daily.  After she passed away, my journal became my avenue for expressing my thoughts, feelings and daily life.”

“I realize that not everyone likes to journal, but if you can force yourself to start, you may find yourself getting addicted to it like I did.”

2.   From Addiction Recovery Basics: “Self-Sabotage and Self-Defeating Behaviors in Addiction Recovery”:

“For people in recovery, thinking about using alcohol or drugs, or actually returning to their use is the ultimate in self-sabotage and self-defeating behavior. I mean, talk about shooting yourself in the foot, what good could possibly come out of a return to the use of drugs and alcohol?As we go through this module I cannot imagine anybody in recovery not having several ‘Aha moments’ or ‘light bulbs going off over your head’. OK, let’s get to it.”

“A pretty good working definition of self sabotaging behavior is this:

“Self sabotaging thoughts, behaviors, and feelings create a block in the road to success even when there is no rational or logical explanation as to why you cannot achieve your goals.”

“An interesting thing about self sabotage is that it is not a lack of knowledge, effort or even desire that keeps you from achieving your goals and out comes.But rather, it is the committee in our head, or our own inner self-dialogue that confuses the issue.”

“Let’s take a look at some of the characteristics in attitudes of self sabotaging behavior. Daniel G. Amen, in his book, Don’t Shoot Yourself In The Foot came up with the following characteristics and contrasts.”

Sabotaging Behavior  vs.  Successful Behavior

“Lack of personal responsibility   vs  Taking personal responsibility
Lack of Awareness   vs  Taking initiative to be informed
Poor communication skills  vs  Positive communications with others
Negativity  vs  Setting and working towards goals
Poor choice making   vs  Making good living choices”

“If I took those contrasts above, and labeled the left side ‘engaging in addictive use’, and the right side in ‘engaging in recovery’, it would fit like a glove. The deeper I get into this, the more realize that engaging in your addiction is the ultimate in self-destructive behavior.”

“So, self-sabotage can lead you to, and position you in the middle of, “relapse mode”. For us, that is the ultimate danger. Self-defeating behavior can make you frustrated, bring up that feeling of being trapped again, and be very discouraging. Don’t get me wrong, everybody makes a poor decision or does not get the results they want all the time. But this idea of self sabotaging and self-defeating behavior is really problematic when it becomes insidious and a pattern rather than an exception.”

3. From Deborah Khoshaba: “Get Hardy”:

The HardiAttitudes are the 3 c’s of commitment, control, and challenge.

Commitment: To be strong in commitment means believing that being involved with tasks, people, and contexts is the best way to find meaningful purpose in life.You will be infinitely curious about what is going on around you, and this will lead you to find interactions with people and situations stimulating and meaningful. Feeling alienated and isolated will seem like a waste of time.

Control: To be strong in control involves believing that, through personal struggle, you can usually influence the directions and outcomes going on around you. Lapsing into powerlessness and passivity will seem like a waste of time.

Challenge: To be strong in challenge means believing that personal improvement and fulfillment come through the continual process of learning from both negative and positive experiences. It will seem not only unrealistic but also stultifying to simply expect comfort and security to be handed to you.

Together, the HardiAttitudes put you into a coping mindset that motivates you to transform the stressors you have into opportunities for new learning, growth, and living the best life possible.

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ACT (Acceptance and Commitment Therapy) Teaches Defusion as the Way to Accept Negative Thoughts

ACT is effective because it teaches us to not add fuel to negative emotions. Trying to change them is futile and a waste of energy. Think of a large checkerboard with large black and white chess pieces. These chess pieces are our emotions. One is not better than the other.

“ACT uses three broad categories of techniques: mindfulness, including being present in the moment and defusion techniques; acceptance; and commitment to values-based living.”

Each day I am going to add defusion techniques to practice after you have noticed the negative thought. Everyone has anxiety but by learning to accept it and defuse it, we can live a calmer life. “You can’t stop the waves, but you can learn to surf.” Notice when you attempt to avoid anxiety. Don’t struggle to change or fight your feelings. It will pass.

In defusing anxiety or negative thoughts, defusion helps you learn how to step back from the thought or feeling and to learn to observe it only. Defusion doesn’t lessen feelings because this would be fighting them again. Rather it is teaching you to disconnect from them by observing them.


Passengers on a bus metaphor—you can be the bus driver with all your noisy thoughts being critical or shouting out at you. Allow the thoughts or feelings to shout but you keep your attention on the road ahead.

The Helicopter View
When something is distressing us, we’re so close to it, involved with it, part of it – it’s really hard to stand back from what’s happening. We see the close up view, but we can’t see anything else. It’s like the well-known saying: “We can’t see the wood for the trees”. If we could zoom out our view, like a helicopter hovering above, we’d be able to see the bigger picture. We could stand back, be less emotionally involved, and see a different perspective.
Playground bully metaphor:

The playground is fenced in and the children have to learn to live with the bully. This bully uses threats, mocking and abusive words to upset his victims. We can’t stop our thoughts, but perhaps we can react to them in a different way, as these victims show us.

Victim 1 – believes the bully (the thoughts), becomes distressed, and reacts automatically. The bully sees this as great entertainment and will carry on targeting this victim. This is how we normally respond to our thoughts.
Victim 2 – challenges the bully, and bully eventually gives up on this victim.
Victim 3 – acknowledges then ignores the bully, changing focus of attention, and the bully soon gives up.

This ACT defusing technique was in a 2005 book by Steven Hayes, the main creator of ACT:
The Quicksand
Suppose you come across someone standing in the middle of a pool of quicksand – there are no ropes or tree branches available. The only way you can help is by talking to them. The person shouts “HELP! GET ME OUT!”, and is beginning to do what people do – struggling to get out. 99.9% of the time, the effective action to take is to walk, run, step, hop, or jump out of trouble.
Not with quicksand. Normally, to step out of something, you need to lift one foot and move the other forward. With quicksand, that’s a bad idea. Once one foot is lifted, all the person’s weight rests on only the other foot (half the previous surface area), and the downward pressure doubles. The person sinks deeper.

As you watch, you see them starting to sink deeper. If you understand how quicksand works, you might shout at them to lie flat, spread-eagled, to maximize contact with the surface. The person therefore probably won’t sink, and might be able to roll to safety. Since the person is trying to get out of the quicksand, it goes against all their natural instincts to maximize body contact with it. Someone struggling to get out of the mud, may never realize that the wise and safer action is to get with the mud.

Our own lives can be very much like this. The normal problem-solving methods that we use (sometimes repeatedly for years) to try to deal with the struggles we face, may themselves be part of the problem, just like someone trying to get free of the quicksand. ACT offers something very different, to help us free ourselves from the quicksand we find ourselves in, but to get with it. By doing so, we can relieve our suffering and become empowered to lead valued, meaningful, dignified human lives.

Steven C Hayes (2005). ‘Get Out of Your Mind and into Your Life ‘.
New Harbinger. Oakland

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