a woman holds her hands over her face
Photo by Anthony Tran on Unsplash

Article date: Nov 17, 2020

There are major setbacks in life, for instance when you face a career or health crisis and then there are of course the minor ones that can range from a flat tire to a spilt cup of coffee on a pair of white linen pants. I seem to have a minor setback at least once a month.

What I have noticed is that my reaction to these types of incidents is dependent on the state of my mind. If I’m in a great mood I will probably laugh and be excited that I have yet another anecdote to share at dinner parties. If I’m in a down mood, I may experience feelings of frustration or even slight sadness. And then there are the days when even the most minor of inconveniences can trigger an over the top response in me that is completely disproportional to the stimulus. Just the other day when my grocery delivery service dropped off the wrong set of groceries I experienced a rage and cry attack at a level normally reserved for the end of a long-term relationship. 

Setback Reset

For me about once a month all the seemingly minor rejections and disappointments pile up and suddenly I feel overwhelmed, highly emotional and completely reactive. This feeling starts as a low-grade emotional fever that lasts for about a week, and reaches a breaking point that lasts about a day in which I feel like my entire life is a major setback. During these days it feels like even the smallest task is overwhelming and I struggle to push through, counting the minutes till the day is over so I can switch off all my devices and just hide out until the next day. 

It was on one of these particular days I came across this article on the Happier Human website entitled, 9 Ways to Be Happy Again After a Life’s Setback written clinical psychologist and CBT practitioner Alexander Draghici. In the piece, Draghici offers nine ways to move forward when you face a setback as well as some great practical tips. 

What The Dickens?

What stood out for me from this article was the notion that failure is a normal part of the process of life. In fact, in the same way that the experience of happiness is only noticeable when compared to sadness, success takes on new meaning only when failure has been experienced. 

From this perspective, failure is therefore a gift and an opportunity for growth. However, before you can move to that level of understanding, you must first mourn the loss associated with the setback. This means it is necessary for you to take time to acknowledge and process the feelings associated with the experience. It is through this reflection you will be able to heal yourself and find the acceptance in order move forward in a positive direction once again. 

As Draghici visually explains with a simple graphic the path to happiness and success is not a straight arrow upward but an arrow that may spiral up and down but hopefully still in an upward direction.

I have always said that life is like the opening to Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities, as generally no matter what the situation, barring of course life’s major setbacks, our experiences are often simultaneously, “the best of times, and the worst of times”. It all really depends on how you choose to look at it and more importantly, what you want to do with it.