Quick Summary: Didn’t See That Coming teaches you survival strategies for overcoming the identity crises that trauma can cause. When tragedy strikes, it’s normal to worry that the world as you know it will end. In fact, in many ways, that’s not the case.
However, if you put your mind to it, you can emerge from adversity changed in ways you never imagined: stronger, more focused, and more capable.
Sometimes life can be incredibly challenging. For example, when you have one of those nagging “what if” thoughts like “what if I get laid off?” which become harsh realities. Not to mention the whirlwinds of difficulties and tragedies that sweep through your life, leaving you with the wreckage.
You don’t have to read the whole book if you don’t have time. This summary will provide you with an overview of everything you can learn from this book.
Without further ado, let’s get started.
Lesson 1: Do not let your guilt define you if you caused the crisis you’re in
There are times when you’ve no choice but to ride out a crisis. When the economy shrinks, your job is at risk. A cancer diagnosis can feel like a complete surprise. Sometimes, however, you find yourself in a dire situation and have no other option but to take the blame. You’ve destroyed your own life, and now it’s in ruins.
As unfortunate as it may be, no one is perfect. Addiction, dishonesty, and anger are just some of the negative feelings and behaviors that anyone can experience. Trauma can be inflicted on anyone, including oneself. So how can we deal with this unpleasant reality and overcome a self-inflicted crisis?
Here’s what you need to learn about shame and guilt: these feelings are signs that you’ve come to terms with the fact that you did something wrong. Recognizing that you played a role in creating the problem is the first, and arguably the most difficult, step on the road to resolution.
Is there anything else you need to do? It may be hard, but you need to let go of your guilt. Punishing guilt is pointless because it does nothing to improve your situation. Instead, they prolong the time you spend reacting to a crisis. Overcome your guilt and learn to love yourself by practicing self-love.
Forgiveness is an act of great bravery that requires a deep love for yourself. Sometimes the people in your life make it even more difficult to do this. However, to overcome a crisis, it’s important to heal broken hearts and not let others take advantage of you.
If one partner in a relationship has broken trust by cheating, for example, the other partner needs to feel bad so that the cheated partner can begin to restore trust. The wronged party interprets the perpetrator’s guilt as just reward.
However, the couple’s efforts to move forward are undone by the punishment, as they should instead be devoted to restoring trust. When guilt threatens to destroy a relationship, it may be time to end the relationship.
Or maybe you’ve finally forgiven yourself, but no one around you can accept it. If a father wants to get back into a relationship after an unpleasant divorce, but his children won’t go along, he faces this situation.
Or an addict wants to make a fresh start, but her loved ones can’t let go of the past and instead deal with her shortcomings. Regardless of what others think, you aren’t obligated to feel guilt. Move on calmly and give others a chance to catch up.
Lesson 2: A crisis can become an opportunity by changing your perspective
Can you tell me if you’ve ever visited Pisa, Italy? The Leaning Tower of Pisa is located there. Lately, the tower has been depicted on postcards as imposing. How about face to face? The thing is beautiful, but rather small. Rather unimpressive, in fact.
Despite its modest height, this tower is more popular with visitors than some other much taller structures, and it’s all thanks to “the photo.” The photo you’re thinking of right now. The cameraman can create the impression that the person is hugging or supporting the tower by choosing the right angle and making the person lean in a certain direction. Also, the person appears to have the same stature as the tower.
The Tower of Pisa is great because it’s an example of how a simple change in angle can lead to a profound change in experience.
Changing one’s point of view can have a significant impact in times of crisis.
A person’s reaction to a crisis is strongly influenced by his or her worldview. One interpretation of a bad divorce is that it’s a reason to isolate oneself from the rest of life. But what if we look at the same divorce from a different perspective? It’s still an incredible challenge, but it’s also the beginning of a new era in your life.
Unfortunately, many people confuse their interpretation of a situation with reality. Because of this, it’s difficult to get them to change their perspective. So how can you change your perspective?
First, remember that you’ve done this before; you’ve had different perspectives. When you were a child, you may have thought that the stork brought babies to their parents. Or that the tooth fairy came and got your missing teeth. Now that you know the truth, do you accept these claims? Not at all! Your perspective has changed.
To continue, think carefully about how you came to your current worldview and how your past experiences have shaped it. Do all dogs have bad intentions, or did a bad experience with a dog when you were five shape your opinion of all dogs forever? Is it true that you only ever find failed relationships, or was it just one bad experience that ruined you for the rest?
Keep objectivity in times of crisis. Look for new perspectives, don’t let your past influence how you see the present, and meet with people who can help you see things from a different angle. You may not be able to turn a bad situation around for the better, but you can make it more bearable, which will have a positive impact on the bottom line.
Lesson 3: The key to overcoming crises is to cultivate a growth mindset
When people are faced with a crisis, they may react in different ways. Some people are irreparably damaged in the process. While some people give up, others emerge from their trials stronger and more capable.
We all know that in times of crisis, people are tested in ways that test their abilities and resilience in unprecedented ways. So why do people who experience the same kind of trauma often develop so differently? And what can you do to emerge from this difficult time not weakened, but strengthened?
So it’s all a matter of head, or more precisely, whether or not you have a growth mindset.
The question now is, what exactly is a growth mindset? Let us take a look at the opposite, the fixed mindset, to find out. A person with a fixed mindset believes that their intelligence, skills, and personality traits are fixed characteristics that cannot be developed. If you have a fixed mindset, even moderate difficulties can seem insurmountable. Perhaps even more discouraging is the possibility that you may feel helpless in the face of this challenge.
People with a growth-oriented mindset, on the other hand, are confident that they can learn and improve over time. People with a growth mindset are not immune to the negative effects of trauma. They are just equipped with the confidence that they can become stronger and more capable of dealing with adversity if they put in the necessary time and effort.
The lesson? With a growth mindset, you can better handle challenges and adapt more quickly. But if you feel like you are locked into a certain mindset, there’s good news: a positive, growth mindset is trainable. This way:
Before searching for answers, it’s important to have a clear understanding of the problem at hand. Searching for general terms like “divorce” or “loss” is pointless. It’s a lot of data, and most of it will not apply to you.
Figure out your learning style before you try to learn something new. Reading a boring textbook is not the best learning method for everyone. Try some online guides, group workshops, art therapy, or self-help books.
And last but not least: If you do not succeed at first, keep trying! The moment you capitulate to your rigid beliefs, you have already lost. The hallmark of a growth mindset is the willingness to keep going, even after setbacks, in order to succeed.
Lesson 4: There is no reason to give up on life because of a crisis
A crisis has the potential to shake your world to its foundations. A relationship unexpectedly falls apart. Your financial security is stripped away. Someone important to you can be here one second and gone the next.
It’s natural to want to isolate yourself after a traumatic event. You don’t return phone calls, ignore emails, don’t go to work, and put off chores. That’s perfectly fine. You need time to grieve, reflect and reorient yourself.
At some point, however, you’ll need to pull yourself out of your grief and back into the world of the living if you’re to recover from your traumatic experience.
It’s normal to feel like time has stopped for you during a major crisis, even if it hasn’t. It’s important to return to normal life as soon as possible after the worst of the grief is over. You owe it to the people in your life to remain present and engaged; anything less would be cruel.
You don’t owe it to everyone, but you do to your partner, your closest friends, your family, and your co-workers. Especially as a parent, you’ve a responsibility not to isolate yourself from your family for fear of burdening them with your problems.
However, you may need help. After a crisis, it can be difficult to regain awareness of the present moment. Fortunately, those who’re struggling can turn to resources to help them. You can talk to a therapist, go to a support group, or confide in a close friend. Journal writing and meditation are great practices if you value privacy. Trying different methods to find out which helps you the most is a normal part of the healing process. If you’re making an effort, that’s a good sign.
Another option is to set up an automatic system to help you cope with stressful situations. To avoid slacking on self-care, it’s important to create regular habits and routines. Make a resolution to go jogging three times a week, take your vitamins at the same time every day, and relax in the bathtub first thing on Sundays. Try to maintain your physical and mental well-being by taking care of yourself. If you don’t take care of yourself first, you’ll have nothing left to give to those around you.
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