A Secret Weapon in Preventing Anxiety and Depression
By Todd B. Kashdan Ph.D.
My mother was a beautiful woman, breast cancer left several scars When I was 9 months old, she had a mastectomy Three months later, my father divorced her, moving in with his mistress We were left without an adult male role model Nobody to teach us how to ride a bike, change a flat tire, strum a guitar, and ask insightful questions to trigger new friendships I remember that she dated 3 guys at the same time to speed up the pace of finding "the one" If only she could look at herself as beautiful- a lost breast being inconsequential, a derelict first husband being irrelevant If only she could tolerate the pain of being alone, until the right person showed up and if not, we will thrive as a household of three If only she knew that it was normal to be scared, doubtful, and lonely raising two little boys with death breathing a bit too heavily on her neck My advice has been consistent for over a decade - the ability to tolerate pain
People who lack the capacity to withstand physical discomfort, negative emotions, frustration, and uncertainty are at a marked disadvantage in life When faced with challenges, they react with greater emotional distress but this is not the problem Instead of dealing with the challenge at hand, their energy gets diverted to worrying, procrastinating, and pursuing harmful activities to take away the pain - from excessive alcohol and drug use, binging and purging behaviors, and verbal and physical aggression toward others
When we better understand, tolerate, and harness distressing thoughts and feelings, and become aware of the situations when they are helpful, we become empowered We gain vitality We become whole