The essential personality trait for a calmer, more interesting and all around better life.

"Can't walk but I can fly" by Mimi Stuart ©

“Can’t walk but I can fly” by Mimi Stuart ©

How do you react when your flight gets canceled, a friend doesn’t show up, or your dinner burns to a crisp? What if you spill coffee on your white shirt before a business meeting? Or you are robbed of your passport, money, and cell phone in a foreign country?

Many of us would become anxious or angry, which certainly does not improve the situation.

We need to be flexible. Being flexible means remaining cool headed, which allows us to problem-solve and to think of alternative actions when facing an unforeseen event. Being ready to adapt to changed circumstances invites creativity and resourcefulness.

Flexibility of attitude and action will give you the confidence to confront any situation. The simple act of remaining calm opens the possibility of maintaining a sense of humor and adventure, which increase your chances of having a positive outcome or at least an interesting experience.

For example, imagine the advantage of going to your business meeting with comfortable ease and a witty remark despite the stained shirt vs. being uncomfortably embarrassed. Or imagine the story you could tell when you are one of the few tourists who gets to experience a police station in Morocco vs. feeling panicked and overwhelmed.

Our memories of difficult situations and experiences make the best stories. If you keep calm and aware enough to observe the details and emotions while engaging the characters involved in the mishap it will make your experience that much more rewarding.

Bad situations may require that you modify your expectations. In a worst-case scenario that lacks any humor or an otherwise silver lining, being flexible means letting go and trying to gain patience, wisdom and humility, and to face the misfortune with a sense of grace.

by Dr. Alison Poulsen

Read “My negative emotions bring me down. I tend to dwell on feeling hurt or angry.”

Read “Transformational Vocabulary: ‘I’m angry, totally confused, and an emotional mess over these overwhelming problems.’”

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2 thoughts on “The essential personality trait for a calmer, more interesting and all around better life.

  1. Jen

    This is a new inquiry – I can’t figure out your email address.

    Hi Alison,

    Thanks for your helpful blog. I’m sending you an email question to stop myself ruminating on the problem to which it relates while I wait for a local counselling appointment.

    My husband and I divorced two years ago (I left). We have a teenage daughter who is temperamentally similar to him, although I couldn’t say how much of that is genetics and how much influence (of which he’s had lots). During the school year, she moves between our houses weekly while we both work full-time. I’m not always happy with the care she gets at his place, but it’s better than what a lot of men provide.

    My ex’s controlling behaviour played a big part in our divorce. He has always mediated my relationship with my daughter, including ‘to protect’ her from me. Of course this is incredibly hurtful, but I also think it encourages her to adopt his walled and instrumental approach to close personal relationships. I was upset at her this weekend for not travelling interstate with me to visit family, preferring to catch the bus 2 days later so she could catch up with friends & get ready for a week’s holiday with Dad & his new girlfriend. I argued with him about his role in permitting her to stay behind, but after I returned & tried to discuss my feelings with her, I found he’d been there before me and she was ‘tired of this crap’.

    I have seen my ex try to get between his older daughter and her mother, but that child is much less similar to him and her mother kept him safely at bay during her childhood.

    A few months ago we were delighted to hear that my daughter’s oldest childhood friend was moving back here from overseas after her parents’ divorce. I was looking forward to reconnecting with her mum and spending some time with our daughters. But instead, my ex has started a relationship with her! To me, his decision to do this feels like the perfect weapon to blow my maternal relationship out of the water by fusing his paternal one with the best friendship. It was this friend in particular for whom my daughter stayed behind this weekend.

    Any thoughts on how to handle this difficult situation? I have spoken to the new (nice) girlfriend about it as calmly as I can, but unless you have experienced this kind of exclusive parenting it’s hard to believe that a man would act like this.

    Jen

    Reply
    1. Alison Post author

      Hi J,

      This sounds excruciating. It seems that there are several things going on at once: your daughter is a teenager, recent divorce from a controlling man, he is dating your daughter’s close friend’s mother. In all three of these situations, you are experiencing loss of closeness with your daughter. This is a hard time, but you will get through it.

      First, it is very normal that a teenager would want to spend most of her time with her friends and minimize time with family. It’s painful and aggravating, but you should not take it personally at all. I know it feels personal, but it is healthy. So regarding any situations in the future where she maximizes her time with her friends, try to be self-composed and avoid acting hurt in the least, and say something like, “I understand you want to spend time with friends. But it’s also important to spend a little time with family, plus I enjoy seeing you. So it would be great if you could pick a night to… with me/us….” This way you are understanding of her desires to be with friends, and you express your own desire to be with her without seeming childish or needy by being hurt and without being controlling and demanding too much.

      As children become teenagers and then go to college or work, the fact is that you will see them less and less. If you want them to enjoy seeing you, you need to let them go gradually while still enjoying some time together. I am nearly finished with a book called “Desire and Desirability: Transforming the Pursuer/Distancer dynamic to find the intimacy you desire.” While I write primarily about romantic relationships, it’s all very relevant to parent/child relationships. To get the connection the Pursuer wants, he/she needs to stop pursuing without withdrawing or being angry.

      Basically you need to focus on making your own life more full, try new things, take care of yourself, focus on what makes you interesting and happy, including being with friends who are NOT dating your ex. Although it will be hard at first to focus on other activities and people, once you make yourself do it for awhile, you will feel happier and more vital. Your daughter is likely to notice too, although I would not expect her to become your best friend, at least for many more years, after she makes her way in the world independent of you.

      You talk about your ex’s weapon blowing your maternal relationship out of the water. He only has power over you if you engage and let him harm you. I would not engage. Wish them both the best. I would remain dignified, focus on your own life, do some new and interesting things with your daughter on occasion while allowing her more freedom, and not pursuing too much closeness with her, which would push her away.

      Good luck and let me know how it goes.

      Alison

      Reply

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