Archive for January 2017

Getting the Most out of Daily Losses   Leave a comment

At some point people, no matter who they are, lose things. Even personal setbacks are a form of loss which causes just as much emotional turmoil as the actual loss of a loved one. Now I know what most of you are thinking, “I haven’t lost anybody recently”, but you have suffered a “daily loss”. Well, the purpose of the article is to expand the “5 stages of grief and loss” and learn how to incorporate them into our everyday experiences.

Have you ever been denied a job you knew you should have gotten?  Have you been rejected by a lover or significant other?  Have you watched as your favorite sports team went down in the flames of defeat? These are some examples of the very same losses that are experienced in the passing of someone, yet most would perceive them as miniscule compared to the passing of a 30 or 50 year spouse. In truth the process is exactly the same; most people just do not realize it.

So let’s start with a little history on the “5 Stages of Grief and Loss”. Dr Elisabeth Kübler-Ross in her 1969 book “On Death and Dying”, was inspired by her work with terminally ill patients. Motivated by the lack of curriculum in medical schools on the subject of death and dying, Kübler-Ross examined death and those faced with it at the University of Chicago medical school. [1] The stages are Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, and Acceptance.

Where the stages are made critically manifest in situations of extreme loss, what is rarely noted is the minds ability to adapt the same process to “daily losses”. Throughout this article, will be highlighted, the specific stages and how they are exposed in the “daily losses”. Also this article hopes to expose the benefits of acknowledgement of those “daily losses” and to improve the tools to withstand the “greater losses” in one’s life.

 

Denial: “Say it ain’t so!

 

How many times have we said “no way” as someone steals your parking space? Or “this can’t be happening” as the final seconds tick away to your favorite teams’ season ending loss? There are hundreds, if not thousands, of examples in the day of how we experience those “daily losses”. Those losses are so common and the denial is so prevalent that there are a multitude of phrases. Even as this article is being created, there are many within the US or around the world in a sense of denial about current political, sociological, and ecological losses. Denial helps to incorporate the changing reality with our current understanding of the one we perceive. We, as humans, have to acknowledge variation and from that point a choice occurs. Do we accept that the perception is real or do we reject it? Oddly this whole process can take our minds moments or decades depending on the variance of change being perceived. An example would the repatriation of Japanese and German Americans after World War II. After the United States had won WWII and released its Japanese and German American prisoners from US based internment camps, there was still a huge division between those former prisoners and the rest of America. Where they to be trusted? Could they still follow in their homelands ways and establish domestic terrorism? Terms like “Japs” and “Krauts” became derogatory terms, much like “Colored” and “Ni**er” had for African Americans.  As with any “loss” the initial response was to deny the change. Segregation and denigration are symptoms of “societal denial”. “They are different so they must not belong in my reality”, becomes the rallying cry of “conservatives” (Note: I do not invoke the political movement, only the definition of the term). It is a broader case of denial made manifest in the society, originating from the personal denial of the change of one’s own perception of reality. Yet, it is the personal perception that is the key point of infection. The idea that when one person refuses to accept reality that misplaced perception is shared by others until it becomes societal and thus blight upon the culture as a whole. There are a multitude of examples from Nazism, Class Warfare, Nationalism, and Islamic Jihad to name a few, all stemming from denial of perceived reality and a sustained effort to try and resist the changes that have already taken place. When said denial and resistance efforts fail the individual moves to the next of the “5 Stages” Anger.

 

Anger:It’s our right! Right?

 

You lost the job, the girlfriend/boyfriend, the personal belongings, the big game, what do you do? You calmly sit down and have a glass of tea, contemplating the greater purposes of the moments within the day. Hell No, we rage. We retaliate emotionally to the drastic change that we can no longer deny and must accept, but truly have aversion to. That’s anger in an abbreviated definition. Many psychologists agree that “it’s ok to be angry”, pop culture celebrates the “Angry Hero” theme in in such a way that it seems the Hero only reaches his “truest potential” when he is “angry and cannot take anymore”. So everyone gets angry and it’s been proven by doctors to be beneficial to express that anger, so why can’t I express my anger in a “daily loss”?

Actually you can and already do. Cursing, hitting a wall, swearing, raising your voice or tone, are all examples of expression of anger within the frame of “daily loss”. These examples are actually more prevalent than denial because of the physical manifestation of emotional turmoil. Just saying the words “I’m angry” has nowhere near the emotional affect as a person flipping a desk or throwing something important. Society has defined dramatic expression of anger as “normalcy”, where as it is the abnormal person that calmly and without any physical movement describes their rage. “Seeing red” is ok, but when that red becomes “white hot” (oddly this is even expressed in nature with a star becoming a Red Giant, then a White Dwarf before it dies out) then the person is a dangerous threat to others and society as a whole.

So how does one use that anger without burning out or succumbing to the rage and becoming a pariah in society? Everyone has the ideas of the guy who is at the bar, just a little too passionate about the home team. The home team losses in a brutally contested match, the guy, a little too passionate and slightly drunk, starts a fight, releasing the pent up anger he has for something he has no control over, and subsequently winds up in jail. This leads to Bargaining as a means to rectify our inability to accept the reality through denial and or emotional reactions of anger.

 

Bargaining:Please baby, please” James Brown

 

Begging, the old fall back point. It is said, “Tis better to beg for forgiveness, than ask for permission”. Bargaining is nothing more than begging with perceived leverage. As stated before the change has already happened, there is no going back and changing time. Denial attempted to ignore the change and failed causing Anger to respond to the lack of control, so what is left? Use what modicum of the old reality that still exists and try to position for a better place in the new one. It’s the company that is bought out and each employee is fighting to prove they still have worth and need a job. It is the terminal relationship that has one party promising to do better or be better if only things would not change.  It is the customer begging the store owner to see if they have one more copy of the latest greatest product in the back so they could give the best gift.

Bargaining is seen as “swallowing your pride”, yet it isn’t truly. It is strategic and tactical; it is the perceived losing of something small to gain the objective. A dog lowering his head and whining is doing so to gain the advantage of something it wants.  Unfortunately, what most people fail to conceptualize with “loss” is that the objective no longer exists. In death, it’s begging with God for more time, denying that the clock has stopped. In our “daily losses” it’s trying to find a way to salvage a bad situation, completely oblivious to the fact the event has come and gone and there is only the result left to account for. This phase is usually characterized by the word “if”. “If this than that”. If one group does this then the results could be changed, (substituting any myriad of examples from politics to grocery store exchanges). It’s all trying to accept and change an outcome that has already been determined and is moving forward. The flaw in bargaining is when the “reality” that the objective we are bargaining for no longer exists, then when we move to the next stage, Depression.

 

Depression:I’d look on the bright side, if I could find it.”          -Eeyore, Winnie the Pooh

 

The “daily loss” has occurred. We denied it, emotionally reacted to our inability to control it, and attempted to achieve an objective that no longer existed, so what’s next? The long ride home. It’s the moments of silence when you couldn’t achieve the job, the relationship, the team, the perfect toy, the perfect parking spot, or any other examples of “daily loss”. It’s the idea that you failed, you could not stop the change, or seize the disappearing objective and now you are faced with reality as it is. You do not like it and you cannot do anything about it.

While there are many ways to cope with “loss depression” (it should differentiated from Depression as a clinical psychological DSM-V disorder) one of the most critical is the idea of “letting go”. It sounds easy and has been proven to be affective in alleviating the stress of some “losses”, yet it seems almost impossible to do in some circumstances.  How many times have we been told, “its just a game, girl, boy, job, parking space, toy, etc”? It’s a method of trying to get the person suffering to see things in a perspective, to see the “bright side” of the reality they have tried to so hard to fight against. In most cases it is “holding on” to the perceived loss that fuels depression and the subsequent actions that accompany the feelings. Once one has learned to let go (you won’t forget, though, sorry) the final step is approached, Acceptance.

 

Acceptance: ““Everything will be okay in the end. If it’s not okay, it’s not the end.”  -John Lennon

 

The final and crucial step towards moving through a loss is acceptance. In terms of our “daily losses” those steps may be quicker than the deep personal loss of a loved one. So you lost today’s game, there will be tomorrow. So he dumped you, Mr. or Mrs. Right will be around soon enough. So you missed your bid on the brand new gadget on EBay, there will be a new auction in a few minutes. Its surprising how people can become resilient and stronger by facing the changes that occur and accepting the results, even if unfavorable.

It can almost be argued that unfavorable changes, the “daily losses” of life, help to define the human experience and help to create a better person. So that when major changes occur one can look back on the smaller victories and recognize that all hope is not lost. It creates a sense of “I have gotten through tough times before…”.

This is an amazing, yet often overlooked, aspect of the human experience. A human being will go through smaller, almost imperceptible, experiences to help reinforce themselves for larger ones. When thought about, it actually brings about a sense of enlightened bliss in knowing that every major experience, albeit loss or success, has been previously achieved. Time and place may be different, but understanding, that “everything changes, yet nothing is truly lost” provides an awareness to even the most minuscule of stressful situations which impact us and our society.

The Universe is an amazing classroom with examples of lessons both within us and in nature of how to cope and achieve peace through and within loss. The 5 stages, while popular, are actually natural mechanisms within us to help alleviate the pain and stress of the human experience.

 

 

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/K%C3%BCbler-Ross_model

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