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Men And Women After Trauma: Coping With Differences

• Do men and women react differently after trauma? Yes.

• Does it mean one suffers more than the other? No.

• Do the differences confuse and often create tension for couples? Too often.

The Differences

What we find across cultures is that in the face of traumatic loss, women need to speak about what has happened and men need to do something about what has happened. In one scene from the devastation of the Tsunami in Sri Lanka in 2005, the women gathered, crying for their lost children while the men rebuilt the homes.

In their 2006 review of 25 years of research on sex differences in trauma and post-traumatic stress disorder in the Psychological Bulletin, David Tolin, and Edna Foa reported that although men have a higher risk for traumatic events, women suffer from higher rates of post-traumatic stress disorder. In their analysis, they suggest that the different rates of PTSD may actually be a function of the fact that men and women manifest their emotional pain in different ways.

In the aftermath of a traumatic event, women are more likely to have feelings of anxiety and depression, while men are more likely to express distress and depression in terms of irritability, anger and increased alcohol consumption.

Couple Response

Caught in the physical and emotional pain from a traumatic loss or event, couples often have very little patience for differences. It is hard for them to believe that their partner could feel different. It is even more difficult to believe that their partner could feel the same and react so differently.

When she suffered a miscarriage in the beginning of her fifth month, Claire was devastated. Then in her late 30’s, she was worried that this might have been her only chance to have a child. Even when she regained her strength, she was often unable to concentrate or sleep. She would ruminate and blame herself for waiting until her career was set before starting a family.

Claire was further upset by her husband John’s reaction. He was upset by the loss, but he seemed confident that there would be other chances. Claire wondered why he wasn’t blaming himself for their decision to wait to have kids. When she questioned him about this, he felt judged and blamed her for making it worse. They would end up fighting.

According to Dr. John Gray of Mars and Venus Starting Over, in the aftermath of the loss, both men and women need time to grieve. As such, it is often more common for women to blame themselves and for men to blame others.

Differences Don’t Equate to Lack of Love

If you find yourself struggling with your partner in the aftermath of a traumatic event, it does not mean that you don’t have a good relationship, or that you were never truly in love.

• Traumatic events are beyond what we ever expect. No one is prepared to respond.

• Differences in response don’t mean that as a couple you won’t cope or can’t heal.

If you take your time and give yourself and your partner a chance to grieve, cope and regulate stress in your own way and different ways, you will be able to use your relationship as an asset for coping.

• She joins a bereavement group at the church.

• He increases his workout schedule.

• She doesn’t want to socialize on the weekends, but he needs to get out—they settle on a movie date together.

Couple Considerations for Coping

• Everyone deals with trauma in their own way and in their own time – there is no right way.

• When in doubt don’t assume the worst about your partner – assume you don’t know.

• Interest and acceptance of your partner’s reactions invite sharing and empathy, which enhance healing.

• Being physically next to someone you love is a natural buffer for stress and emotional pain.

• Talking about the pain at times for her, valuing the shared silence for him—reflects the resilience of connection.

Sometimes the best-traveling companion in life is someone who sees and reacts to things in a way you would never have considered.

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How To Deal With Disappointment?

Dealing With Disappointment – Constructively.

– Put yourself in a clearer mental state.

Whenever you experience disappointment, you are pulled down into a lower state of consciousness, where your thoughts are predominantly rooted in fear, sadness, grief or even apathy. There may be times when the feeling of disappointment is so overwhelming that it feels like the end of the world.

Being trapped in such a state it prevents you from thinking logically and clearly. When dealing with disappointment, your first focus should be to bring your consciousness up to a more neutral or positive level such as desire, neutrality, willingness and reason so that you are in a better position to react to your situation.

Look for positive activities where you can recharge yourself. What activities do you most enjoy doing in your life? Identify them. It can be writing in your personal journal, playing games, walking in the park, watching a happy movie or talking to positive friends. If you find that reading your favorite book uplifts you, then pick up the book and start reading it. If taking a stroll along your neighborhood makes you more relaxed, then get out of your house and enjoy the breeze outside. If playing games can make you feel happier, go ahead and play them. Do whatever makes you feel better. Sometimes, simply spending time alone might be the best way for you to clear out your mental clutter and regain personal energy.

For me, I find that a combination of activities including alone time, talking with my good friends, watching my favorite shows, reading novels and dancing help to lift me up considerably. I absolutely love dancing; whenever I am playing them I get a lot of exhilaration and fun out of the exercise. In times when I feel really down, I would rather prefer spending time by myself. This alone time allows me sort out the thoughts in my mind, think without external interference’s and gain clarity on what to do in my situation. Talking with my friends, on the other hand, makes me privy to other perspectives and thoughts which I may not be aware of in the beginning.

– Attach with your desires, not your goals.

When you are disappointed, your source of disappointment is rooted in your over-attachment to a certain outcome. When an outcome does not manifest the way you envisioned, you become disappointed. This is a perfectly natural response. However, understand that your expectations in the outcome, or goals, is a reflection or external projection of an underlying desire you have. They might or might not be accurate projections, because they are merely subjective interpretations of what you think is needed to live up to your underlying desire.

For example, let’s say you went for an interview with Company A. You love the job scope, the benefits package is great, you have heard rave reviews about the place. All in all, you see a career at Company A as the equivalent of your dream career. However, you are passed over for another candidate whom they deemed as a better fit for the role. Company A happens to have a policy of only accepting applications from the same candidate once every 2 years. There is no way you can try until 2 years later. What should you do from here?

The second step toward dealing with disappointment requires you to attach yourself to the desires behind your desires, not your goals. Start off by recognizing that a job in Company A is just a projection of your inner desires. Your inner desire may be to get a career which challenges and stretches you in a dynamic working environment. If there’s the case, there are many ways you can do that, such as working in Company G, Company X, or even setting up your own business. Working at Company A is just one of the many ways which you can achieve that.

A common example where people tie themselves too much to their external projections of their desires is in relationships. For example, you like person A. You want to be together with him/her, but the person A does not reciprocate the feelings. While you may feel disappointed, stop and think – What are your underlying intents? It is to be in a loving, authentic relationship with someone. Person A is just one of the many people in this world who can make you feel love. He/she is not going to be only person you are capable of loving; there are many other people out there whom you will love as well. Instead of tying all your expectations to this one person, link yourself with the underlying desire to find real, authentic love.

Ask yourself this question: What are your actual desires that are driving your expectations? Understand what they are and list them down. Say you are at point A and you want to move to point B. When you link yourself with these desires, you will realize that point B is just one of the many destinations you can go to. There are many other possible destinations, such as point C, D, E.. all the way to Z, then there’s even A-1, A-2.. and so on, where you can achieve your desires just as well, if not better. Attach yourself to your desires, not your interpretations of what will achieve your desires.

– Release yourself of your mental illusion.

The next step in dealing with your disappointment is to release yourself of your mental illusions of what reality should be. Many people remain in a disappointed state because they are hung up over their expectations of what reality should be. If you are disappointed over something, you are harboring certain perceptions of what it should be. These perceptions are not the reality; they are figments in your mind which are untrue. If they are true, why are they causing you disappointment?

These mental illusions are dis-empowering because they keep you caught in the negative state you are in. As long as you are trapped in them, it prevents you from progressing toward where you want to go. Dealing with disappointment requires you to let yourself go of the mental illusions.

When you are disappointed, ask yourself this – what is it that I am getting hung up over? What false perceptions am I still clinging myself on with? What am I expecting from the reality that it is not giving me? Seek these illusions out, one by one. Question yourself how and when you came to have the illusions. Become aware of them and release yourself from them. These illusions are giving you an inaccurate view of reality. They are preventing you from acting constructively on your situation or living your life the way you should.

If we look at the same relationship example from above, you are disappointed in the situation because you wanted to be with person A. You feel that you have lost what could have been a great relationship. However, that is actually just an illusion in your mind that you are playing in your head. If person A does not want to be with you for whichever reasons, he/she is not going to be the person who can achieve your desire for a relationship. He/she is not going to be the person who can give you want you desire. Your belief that he/she is the one for you is actually an illusion that you need to release yourself of.

– Understand the outcome is not a setback.

Disappointments are good is because it represents an opportunity for growth. Many people become disappointed with occurrences because they view that as a setback or a failure vs what they want to achieve. They feel like they have taken a step back from what they have come to acknowledge or expect.

For example, say you did a lot of preparation and late night studying for your exams. You had the belief that these actions, along with what you knew about your reality, would result in you getting high flying results. However, instead of achieving that outcome, you fell short of your expectations.

While you may be feeling disappointed, this experience is actually showing you that there is a misconception in your thinking. What you originally thought is sufficient to achieve your outcome actually isn’t. Instead, you may need to increase your resources or change your approach to achieve the results you want. Your disappointment is actually helping you to move toward your goals, not away from it as you originally thought.

Your experience has resulted in you obtaining new lessons, whether about yourself, the situation or even the world. You have gained something which nobody else is privy to. How can an outcome be a setback if it gave you something new to learn about? As Friedrich Nietzsche said, “What doesn’t kill us makes us stronger.” With this new learning, you walk away from previous experience as a better person. You will become a stronger individual. You reach a whole new level of awareness, consciousness and growth which you never had before.

– Moving Forward: Focus on doing the best you can.

Dealing with disappointment is definitely not an easy task, but if you work hard at the steps mentioned above, it will eventually help to pull you out of the void state you are in. As you start living past your disappointments, focus on living in fullest alignment with your desires, instead of your goals. Continue to have goals. Let them drive you forward. However, take note not to attach yourself with these goals. When you do that, you start to fall into the trap of associating your existence with them. This is not sustainable because those goals are just external outcomes which are impermanent.

I have a good friend who once said to me – “Life is not just about reaching the goals; it’s about living it to the fullest.” And he is right. In every situation you are in, choose the action which lets you live in alignment with your inner desires the most, within your abilities, within your situational contexts. As long as you are doing that, there is no reason why you should feel down or bad, because you have done all that you can. When you start doing that, you will find that you are able to live consciously and freely instead of subjecting yourself to outcomes. You are able to constructively channel the passion of your inner desires to live the kind of life you want.

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How To Overcome Your Greatest Disappointments?

Maybe you didn’t get the promotion. Maybe a thief broke into your house and made off with every precious thing you owned.

Or maybe the person you fell in love with and wanted to marry didn’t return your feelings.

It happens to all of us. If you’re ambitious about life, you’ve suffered disappointments along with success.

In fact, it seems like the more you find success, the more it stings when things don’t go your way. You wonder, how in the world could this happen to me?

I hadn’t planned to write this post. But then I realized it’s danger in not talking about the real disappointments in our lives. So I’m going to talk about it. Because I know my readers, who are successful and ambitious, will face disappointments of their own. And sometimes, the best time to write about how to find your way out is when you’re in the middle of it.

So here’s everything I’ve learned, from my own experiences and others, about overcoming the emotional toll of defeat, and more importantly, how to keep on living well in spite of it.

1. Take time for reflection.

Sometimes our disappointment is driven by a fear of change that isn’t real. We wrap our self-worth around awards or promotions that aren’t meaningful and people who are not worth (or if they are, it makes that self reflection even more valuable). Whether it’s therapy or just discussing things with a friend, get clear on why you wanted what you did. You might find that your disappointment is an opportunity to change course towards a more positive direction.

2. Don’t give up too soon.

Once you know why you’re fighting for a dream, it’s a lot easier to keep going. There’s no magic number of times you try something before it either works or you concede to quit with honor. There are no guarantees your persistence will pay. You just have to be able to look at yourself in the mirror and believe, “I gave it everything I had.”

3. Find a way to laugh.

Most people won’t do this. They’ll blow it off as silly, but it’s really powerful. Laughter releases “feel good” chemicals such as serotonin into the body, relieving tension and providing a momentary escape from the emotions that plague you.

It’s also a heck of a lot more fun than crying.

I’m convinced you can find a funny video on almost any topic on You Tube. If that doesn’t work, nothing cures the job blues better than your favorite comedy, a bowl of ice cream, and a great big belly laugh. Just do it.

4. Don’t dwell in your disasters.

During times like these, gratitude only comes with practice. Focus on what’s going right in your life; make a list of all the “lucky breaks” you’re probably taking for granted. Then allow yourself to enjoy them. You don’t have to pay homage to what could have been by being miserable. Pay your respects by acknowledging that what you have is enough.

5. Grieve.

A dream has died.

One of the big myths about grief is that it’s something you just “get over.” In fact, though you never stop grieving, you do learn to live with it. The problem is, you can’t get there logically. You have to follow the soggy breadcrumbs of your emotions and hope they take you home.

Recently I had a nightmare. I was taking my kids to school and I was (as usual) a bit late. We were rushing and I was pulling them along beside me. When I looked down I realized one hand was empty. I was frantic. I couldn’t find my child. How could a child go missing without me even realizing it? When I awoke, all was right with the world.

Setting and reaching for ambitious goals are important. It’s what keeps life interesting. But there’s no point in ruining the life you already have in pursuit of the one you can’t. Don’t let your dead dream become a ghost that hovers over your life.

“I’m grieving what was never there to begin with. I’m grieving an idea of myself and of my place in the world. I am not grieving what is or what was. I am grieving what doesn’t exist and what has never existed, except in my own thoughts. [But] there will be new dreams, different dreams, dreams that are based on what is real.”

You can’t always be lucky. And when your heart is broken, you can’t always be happy.

But you can be brave. You can embrace hope like an old friend. . . the one who lied, the one you forgave.

Keep dreaming.

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