I hate it when one of my tires goes flat. I really hate it. It leaves me deflated, angry and ready to snap at anyone who has the misfortune to get in my way. I don’t like changing tires and don’t do it well. I have legendary stories in my mind about horrible happenings while trying to change tires. Never mind that it is in reality not that big a deal (I know that. I just don’t always believe it.). Flat tires leave me feeling 2 inches tall.
What happens when life feels like a flat tire? How do you cope with adversity without either being incapacitated or being left in screaming tantrums? If you have bipolar disorder or live with someone with bipolar disorder you know what it is like for life to be a flat tire. What can you do?
Below are some ideas that help. They even help a little with flat tires:
Normalize adversity. Don’t tell yourself that problems are what happens when things go wrong. Life is problematic. It will never be so good it isn’t. It makes a difference when the first words out of your mouth are not, “Oh no, what do I do now?” Problems are not proof of life’s unfairness. Life has problems because that is life. It is no small difference in perspective and strongly influences how well you do with the problems you face.
Talk about problems when they occur. This is particularly important if it is a problem with other people. The assumption that something can’t be worked out or is too big of a hassle to work out is a prime cause of problems getting worse. Even when you are not having problems with people talk about the problems you can reasonably expect to have. Anticipating common conflicts and acting before they occur is a great preventative. Being an active and effective problem solver is an great antidote to adversity and a great way to keep your tires from going flat in life.
Look at things from a larger perspective. This one is so often neglected. Yes adversity is a source of deprivation. But it is also a source of opportunity. What can you gain from dealing with what you must deal with? What can you learn? What can you accomplish? What can it give you the opportunity to do that otherwise you might not have? How does it make you stronger? How does it make you a better person? In what way does it give you the opportunity to move on to better things? These and other questions like these help to give you a larger perspective. Hard times are bad enough. Hard times without reason or purpose are torture and disaster. People can deal with very hard things in the service of a greater purpose.
Be grateful for what you got instead of fixating on what you haven’t got. As a friend once told me that got tired of me complaining about a flat tire. “You got to have a car in order to have a flat tire.” Think about that. When you get all obsessed with what’s lost try thinking about what’s left. Even in the hardest of times there is always much to be grateful for. An attitude of gratitude going in helps a lot to keep any adversity within perspective.
How do you do all this? What if you have tried really hard to do some of these things already and had a really hard time being successful? It is a simple answer, but hard to do. Practice. Simply practice. People do what they are used to doing, particularly in hard times. If you want to do something different you must get used to doing something different. Make a decision to do different and practice being different. Practice does not make perfect, but it does make different.
Do little things first. As you practice little things it becomes more likely you will be able to do big things. Some things will be hard to normalize. Some won’t. Some things will be hard to talk about. Some won’t. It will be hard to see a purpose in some things. In some things it won’t. Finally it will be hard to find something to be grateful for sometimes. Sometimes it won’t. The more you do the more you will find yourself able to do.
Tires do go flat. It just means they are tires. And it sure makes me look forward to when they are not flat.