Article Requests · Mindset

Mental Resilience

I received the following article request, which is related to my article on dealing with a failed relationship:

What’s the best course of action when moving on after a failed relationship and dealing with the emotional pain? For example, I’ve heard people say, make some goals, take a trip, but all this sounds easier said than done. In my case, I ended up drowning in sorrow. I completely lost interest in all activities. I was kind of curious when a guy loses interest in all activities, how does he come to grips with the new normal as you stated and how do you manage the emotional pain (hence, how to move on from a failed relationship). It seems like people like to drown in their own sorrows and what causes this.

Here, the assumption is that the guy suffers after he has been dumped by his girlfriend or served divorce papers. Yet, the problem of dealing with setbacks is much more general in nature. I will therefore also address this topic from that angle. As rightly stated above, some people have a really hard time with coming to grips with a new reality. Yes, your woman can leave you, but there is a lot more that can happen in life, such as sickness, the untimely death of a loved one, job loss, or financial losses.

I do not think that a lot of men are well-equipped for dealing with tough times. This is probably a lot more true today than it was a mere five or ten years ago. Zoomers or Millenials may be psychologically weaker than Gen-Xers, and perhaps often physically as well, but as they are younger and still have most of their life ahead of themselves, they also have less to lose and more time to make up for setbacks. In contrast, if you are in your 40s, 50s, or older, you can end in a pretty bad spot.

Men who are ill-equipped for dealing with setbacks only make things worse. I recall guys I met at university who would have been set for a decent-enough career and lifestyle, yet ended up as alcoholics or drug addicts. Others chased after fantasies. One of the smarter guys I met ended up working as a bank teller, another guy whom I also considered pretty smart got sucked into World of Warcraft and lost years of his life. I have good reason to suspect that women were the trigger for both those tragedies as both were in relationships with women they were obsessed with to an unnatural degree. Both were dumped by the supposed love of their life, who simply moved on to more successful men.

Older guys do not necessarily have it easy either. Probably all of you know of one or two men in your extended family or wider social circle who could not deal with a professional setback. Maybe the company they worked for shut down, or perhaps they got a demotion at work, or maybe they got stuck in a mid-career position and cannot handle seeing younger guys move past them on the career ladder. Of course, there is also the fact that some men end up in divorce court, not really understanding what is even going on.

Some guys get trapped in memories of their past, thinking of how great their life supposedly was. Even more tragic is that this may be a completely false perception of reality, i.e. perhaps their manager never had any intention at all to promote them, and their ex-wife may have been looking for a new guy behind his back for two or three years already. This reminds me of a great quote I came across in a video on some video game I watched recently, where the commentator remarked that the player “was dead minutes ago already”, meaning that the player got stock in a completely hopeless situation he had no chance of winning, yet was not aware yet of how bad the situation he was in really was and kept struggling. This is often how real-life dramas unfold as well.

The most efficient way of dealing with a setback, no matter what it is, is to embrace the new reality you are in. Sure, take a day or two to mourn, if you want, and confront the emotions you feel, instead of trying to suppress them. I do not think that this is time wasted. Yet, you quickly need to take stock of your new life and embrace the new reality you live in. Figure out exactly where you stand and what the key facts are. Then set yourself a new goal to work towards.

In general, you will end up in a much better place in life if you take the bull by the horns and proactively pursue your goals. You cannot afford to sit around, and this is even more true when there is trouble unfolding around you. In the reader submission, the example of taking a trip was mentioned. I am not sure that this is particularly helpful. After all, taking a trip, even to a place you like a lot, is not a meaningful long-term goal, and in the end, you return home to the same life you had before. Setting a meaningful goal, on the other hand, is helpful. However, this cannot just be some kind of band-aid.

Perhaps ironically, guys who have a clear focus in life are much less likely to end up in an emotional tailspin. Sure, they can enjoy their friends, family, and the time with their partner. Yet, if you pursue a clear goal in your life, you probably will not make one particular person, one particular job, or one particular item in your possession the center of your life. Importantly, you cannot just set a goal for the sake of it. Instead, the key question is what you really want to get out of life, and probably there are several facets to it. Even in a less optimistic scenario where you are in your 50s or 60s and face a serious setback, probably not all is lost. Sure, perhaps one of your goals is now forever out of reach, but this does not mean that you have to give up on everything else as well.

3 thoughts on “Mental Resilience

  1. Another aspect of moving on from setbacks, in my experience, is having the freedom to give yourself what you need. This goes for any trauma.

    Your traumas are just that, YOUR traumas, and thus, if people truly care about you, they’ll support you in giving yourself whatever it is that you’ve decided you need during that time (assuming it’s not objectively harming yourself).

    An example of this, pretty sure I’ve discussed this here before, but my sophomore year roommate hung himself on my ceiling fan at the end of the school year.

    That summer, I got a job waiting tables. I would argue that if my parents had remotely acceptable empathetic skills, they’d have discouraged me from taking that job under those circumstances as that is not a good job for someone dealing with that level of grief. I’d say that’s the case EVEN if you’re a social butterfly.

    Got fired from that job. Felt like I could barely function.

    After getting canned from that job, my parents bitched me out for weeks until I finally found an internship (unpaid).

    I’ll be fucking damned if anyone wants to make the case that there’s anything remotely wrong with me opting to play video games, guitar, and doing fun shit with my friends that summer.

    1. To clarify, I agree with the post. I’m just expounding on that aspect of sitting with your emotions in the immediate aftermath of a setback, and what that looks like in practice. Obviously, different types of setbacks will require different amounts of “time with yourself”

  2. On a somewhat related note,I hope to see your book on relationships sooner rather than later Aaron.

    I imagine we are probably gonna have at least a few differences in what traits would matter most in a potential girlfriend/wife,but it’d be great to have a general guide on what to watch out for from a reliable source.

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