THE BLOG

Can't Prevent It So Prepare For It

09/13/2011 10:36 pm ET | Updated Nov 13, 2011

Today represents possibly the toughest circumstances in recent times to live life. Certainly since the '80s, the general population has not known a time when jobs are hard to keep or find nor when spare cash in our pocket is jingling rather than folding. The stresses and pressures that this creates causes related problems in our homes and private lives.

The World Health Organisation has recently reported a global increase in the diagnosis of depression and depression-related illness. I believe there has to be a connection between this and the current external influences that are battering the majority of us on a daily basis. Regardless, there has never been a more important time for everyone to (re)connect with a happier way of life.

My guiding principle with this alternative perspective on living, is that we are already happy. That's right, we are all already happy. Unfortunately, through the daily bombardment of personal, social and economic pressures that "happy foundation" is blurred. In fact, it becomes so blurred that the majority of us now believe we are not happy unless we have something, earn something, feel something, wear something or go somewhere.

It has got to the point where we no longer believe we are, or in fact can be, happy without these things. This perceived belief is conceived within us by the millions of images we are exposed to on a daily basis. Social conditioning is the mastery of the world's most creative marketeers and media moguls. They create these fantasy images promoting some product, place or service in a way that makes us believe we need it to be happy. This in turn creates a switching of need versus want. We must act now to avoid more unrest in our lives and within ourselves.

There are already many helpful and insightful articles on HuffPost helping you "get back in touch with yourself." Instead, I am going to jump to what is happening today and talk about when the proverbial hits the fan, and what you can or can't do about it. Rather than referring to it as "the proverbial," I will simply say everything bad that can happen to us is "suffering."

First thing about suffering is to accept that you cannot prevent it from crossing our paths. I'm really talking about the suffering we experience through life in varying degrees of seriousness. In the main, we cannot control its presence. Clearly, if you lose your job because you continuously are late into work then you could have controlled that outcome. If you lost your job through mass redundancies or the business went into administration, then you couldn't have prevented it.

So, the first step is really digesting the possibility of suffering occurring and impacting your life. If you consider that this may happen, then at least when and if it does, you should have removed (some of) the shock factor. By considering this impact ahead of time, you will also help prevent the "personalization" of it. A very normal reaction to such challenges is the "why me" analysis. This form of defence personalizes the suffering that has occurred and that in turn creates permanence for it. So if you have lost your job, and dwell on the "why me, why has it happened to me" questioning, it is going to take you longer to move forward and start some positive action.

The detrimental effect of the personalization of suffering is that we start to believe it really is personal. In other words, "I lost my job because I am not good enough," or "I lost my partner because I am inadequate." This in turn creates a whole series of additional insecurities that then need to be addressed and dealt with.

Whereas, if you prepare for such suffering, create a mental space void of personalizing it, you automatically stop the creation of these additional insecurities. The continuous practice of thought around "I may lose my job because the company is not doing well," or "I may lose my partner because s/he may stop loving me," will educate ourselves in that very prospect and aid in our dealing with such hard times.

The other effect of personalization is that it can often amplify the event. What I mean is, by creating a story that wraps around what has happened, you may start to live the story instead of the event. This happens when you talk to your friends or family about what has happened. Whilst it's very natural to talk -- and often really good for the healing process -- the story, over time, can become embellished and exaggerated, and therefore increases the impact and permanence of the event further. There is a fine line between talking about something that has happened and falling into the trap of dwelling on it because you "get used" to talking about it.

This practice of accepting and preparation works particularly well in cases of severe suffering such as the loss of a loved one or being told you have a terminal illness. I am unfortunate enough to have experienced such severe suffering. As devastating and temporarily debilitating as these situations were, I just about managed to avoid the personalization and focused on coming to terms with what had happened and the aftermath.

There is a further effect of such trauma and I will discuss how to "see the change" following suffering and "meet the new you" in my next article.

But for now, accept that in most cases you cannot prevent suffering and instead try to prepare for it. Focus on thinking about -- not personalizing -- what happens and avoid creating additional insecurities.