Guys imagine your worst breakup. The girl of your dreams smashes your hopes into a million little pieces. You’re devastated. Beyond consolable. You need relief. We’ve all done it. Went out drinking on the town to drown the reality of our failures or to nurse a broken heart. We crave the warm numb of a stiff drink. Not a long-term countermeasure to our failure but a necessary emotional bandage on our stress. Arriving at the bar an incredible blonde (see above) sends an inviting smile in your direction but you miss your opportunity shackled to your yesterdays.
Ladies same situation. Your Mr. Right unceremoniously dumps you. A group of your closest girlfriends rallies to your side. They mandate an evening out to commiserate two wasted years with the insensitive cade. Arriving at the bar a tall, dark, and handsome man in a tailored suit looks your way with the wry smile of intent but you miss your chance stuck in the quicksand of the past.
“What we really want”, is to see our stumbles, missteps, and failures in the future tense. To see beyond the tender tension of our momentary pain and suffering into a better future, precisely because of our failure. To fully recognize our setbacks, as the perfect stepping stones to a better tomorrow.
“All life is an experiment. The more experiments you make, the better.”
—RALPH WALDO EMERSON
My inspiration and title for this post came from listening to Cole Swindell’s “Ain’t Worth the Whiskey”. Songwriters, by their nature, create from the heart often as a cathartic salve on their own hurts, wounds, and disappointments. We identify with the aspirational angst of a song like Swindell’s offering a little get back to the one who hurt us. Punch play and give the song a listen while you read on.
I don’t care that you done me wrong
‘Cause I’ve already moved on
I don’t care what his name is
Girl, it is what it is
I won’t waste a dime or the bartender’s time
Tryna catch a buzz, over the thought of us
But I’ll drink to a country song
To another long work week gone
And I’ll raise my glass to a long lost buddy I ain’t seen
I might stay for one more round
Or I might close this place down
But don’t think for a second I’m out to drown your memory
Baby, you ain’t worth the whiskey
The song taps into our deepest need to be defiant in the face of rejection. According to long-held beliefs, divorce (breakups) are #2 on the most stressful event in our lives list. Just behind the death of loved ones. A long period of grieving and reflection is de rigueur. Consequently, love’s lament is the source of countless songs, poems, and stories. Our literature and mythology are replete with such long-suffering dramas. Think Romeo and Juliet. Talk about unhappy endings. We have been culturized to be mortified by vicissitudes of romance. But should we be? Can the stress of relationship change be good for us?
What if we create an alternative reality in which, our ex is just an “usher” to the one person who will really love us? Positive psychology teaches while in the throes of heartbreak, we should practice random acts of kindness, dance more, and tap into the “post-traumatic bliss” conjured up by remembering we are not dead. And the sun will rise tomorrow.
In “Super Better”, Jane McGonigal, Ph.D. offers three cornerstones to being more resilient in the face of debilitating setbacks. She says, 1) You are stronger than you know. 2) You are surrounded by potential allies. And 3) You are the hero of your own story. In the simplest terms, your mindset matters.
In addition to the necessity of a mindset transformation, what if we have been reading our body’s signals all wrong?
A common thread through all our work at Beyond the Hype is the idea of shifting your perspective on life’s signals. Beyond the noisy drone of the agenda-driven information flow, science is making huge strides in refining and redefining the human experience. Each and every day, scientists are overthrowing prevailing orthodoxy under the deafening rush of media spin. The advancement of the human experience isn’t dramatic enough for big media’s business model, so often times critical revelations are glossed over are never mentioned. Beyond the Hype exists for that reason. Our posts always endeavor to shift your perspective.
In “The Upside of Stress: Why Stress Is Good for You, and How to Get Good at It“ Kelly McGonigal, Ph.D. suggests that stress can be transformed by turning a threat into a challenge. In her book, she goes on to assert, “Viewing the stress response as a resource can transform the physiology of fear into the biology of courage. It can turn a threat into a challenge and can help you do your best under pressure. Even when the stress doesn’t feel helpful—as in the case of anxiety—welcoming it can transform it into something that is helpful: more energy, more confidence, and a greater willingness to take action.”
“You can apply this strategy in your own life anytime you notice signs of stress. When you feel your heart pounding or your breath quickening, realize that it is your body’s way of trying to give you more energy. If you notice tension in your body, remind yourself that the stress response gives you access to your strength. Sweaty palms? Remember what it felt like to go on your first date—palms sweat when you’re close to something you want. If you have butterflies in your stomach, know that they are a sign of meaning. Your digestive tract is lined with hundreds of millions of nerve cells that respond to your thoughts and emotions. Butterflies are your gut’s way of saying, “This matters.” Let yourself remember why this particular moment matters to you.”
“Whatever the sensations of stress are, worry less about trying to make them go away, and focus more on what you are going to do with the energy, strength, and drive that stress gives you. Your body is providing you access to all your resources to help you rise to this challenge. Instead of taking a deep breath to calm down, take a deep breath to sense the energy that is available to you. Then put the energy to use, and ask yourself, “What action can I take, or what choice can I make, that is consistent with my goal in this moment?”
In summary, you have the power to shift your body awareness and your perspective on the stress experience. In the smoldering ruins of your last relationship, you can be energized. Dr. McGonigal’s revelation came from a 2011 study that concluded, “high amounts of stress and the perception that stress impacts health are each associated with poor health and mental health. Individuals who perceived that stress affects their health and reported a large amount of stress had an increased risk of premature death.” Live’s disruption to our status quo and the stress it generates can be deadly. Or stress can make you stronger. The study points to your perception mattering the most. It’s up to you.
Social scientists Jane and Kelly McGonigal blew me away with the simplicity of their TED talks. Accidently experiencing the twin’s presentations back to back even though they were recorded a year apart, it took me a moment to realize I wasn’t seeing the same woman with different hair colors. These two devoted scientists rocked TED and left me loving my role out on the frontiers of knowledge hunting for ideas that might change your life.
Kelly McGonigal’s books, The Upside of Stress: Why Stress Is Good for You, and How to Get Good at It, and The Willpower Instinct: How Self-Control Works, Why It Matters, and What You Can Do to Get More of It along with her sister Jane McGonigal’s SuperBetter: The Power of Living Gamefully and Reality Is Broken: Why Games Make Us Better and How They Can Change the World are must-reads for those who wish to change their experience. I read all four books in a matter of days researching this post. Thank you both for your engaging TED talks and incredible books.
Lastly, but never least, the beautiful blonde in the picture on this post’s masthead is the very talented actress Ms. Alice Eve. For the record Ms. Eve, it would take me a whiskey or two to get over you. Thank you for brightening up my post with your smile. Until next time.