One way to react to pain is to shut out what caused the pain.

If someone cheated you, why trust people again?

If a job has demotivated you, why commit to another job again?

If friends and family have abandoned you, why seek for human connection again?

The examples are somewhat trivial, but it is a pretty common and natural way to react to pain. We take our own experience, or our own repeated experiences, and we extend that to the full category – people, work, friends, family, love, connection, health – to protect ourselves from further pain.

The problem though is that when we do that we are never better off. We avoid pursuing something that matters to us in the name of safety and comfort. But pain is inevitable. It is part of us, it is part of living.

And so, another way to react to pain is to continue in your search. Give a chance to other people, other jobs, other friends, other family members, other partners, other peers, other solutions. And continue doing that until you have built enough resilience and strength that the search becomes more important than the outcome.

In distress

When others are not at their best, we unconsciously start a balancing act between our best self and our lazy self.

What can I do to help? is a question that comes from our best self. We feel for the other person and we want to see if there’s a way for us to help them get back on track.

Of course, the answer to that question is often vague or undefined. People who are not at their best tend not to know what they need. And that’s when our lazy self kicks in. We quickly fall into old habits, we fail to keep the distress of the other person in mind, and we eventually resorts to habits that make us comfortable and safe. Our lazy self will always end up helping ourselves.

When others are not at their best, skip that question, even if well intended. Instead, keep the fact top of mind, and avoid asking the other person a favor, don’t put additional stress on them, forget about a rule or a habit that might be making their life more complex, praise them more often and say thank you to them at any possible occasion, bring them or buy them food, invite them out for a coffee or a tea, make them feel heard and listened to.

It’s a lot of hard work, but that’s how you make your best self prevail in these delicate circumstances.