04/21/2010 05:12 am ET | Updated Nov 17, 2011

How To Thrive In The Face Of Adversity, Setbacks And Losses

Nobody's exempt from pain. Not even self-help book authors! In my book, THE BOUNCE BACK BOOK, I confess how within one year, so many bad occurrences happened, I kept waiting for a Candid Camera crew to appear from behind the planter in my living room!

First, the real estate broker, real estate lawyer, and moving company I hired found sneaky ways to rip me off. Next, a longtime business buddy hired me to package new groovy chocolate bars, then never paid me. But those were nothing compared to the lowest point: a sexual assault by someone I knew as an acquaintance.

I share all this because I want you to know that I fully understand how painful and challenging life can be.

Thankfully I also understand how with right psychological resiliency tools at your disposal, you can bounce back from a set back -- often even stronger, wiser, happier.

After my sexual assault, one of the main things keeping me in a negative place was this uncomfortable feeling of "victimhood."

It felt particularly weird to be in a so-called victim position, because I am an optimistic self-help book author, not a helpless little twig being tossed topsy and turvy in the winds of uncontrollable fate.

Is that melodramatic of me to write or what?

But that was how I felt after the assault -- out of control. I became anxiously aware that anything could happen to me at any time. And this sense of not being in control over my life created a lot of anxiety.

Later, as I began researching resilience psychology (for myself as well as a book on this subject) I discovered some interesting studies about this subject of "control."

The Journal of Personality and Social Psychology reported that the number-one contributor to well-being is not money, good looks, or popularity! No, the biggest life goodie is "autonomy," defined as "the feeling that your life -- its activities and habits -- are self-chosen and self-endorsed."

Studies at the University of Michigan confirmed that "Having a strong sense of controlling one's life is a more dependable predictor of positive feelings of well-being than any other objective conditions of life."

In one famous study, researchers randomly gave mice either cheese or electric shocks. The mice did everything they could to avoid the shocks and get more cheese, but when they figured out that their actions had no effect, they lapsed into a state of passive listlessness. When they were eventually given the choice (autonomy) to avoid the electric shocks or get more cheese, the mice were so bummed out they just lay there, choosing not to do anything at all!

Similarly (but with better results), psychologist Judith Rodin encouraged nursing home patients to exert more control in their lives by motivating them to make a few key changes to their environments (to decide if the air conditioning should be on or off or how furniture should be arranged). Rodin also pushed patients to request changes in various nursing home policies, which they subsequently received. As a result, 93 percent of these patients became more alert, active, and happy.

It just goes to show that, unlike a mouse, we humans are lucky to have this thing called "consciousness." We know better than to give up, even after our autonomy has been challenged.

Meaning? If right now you're feeling so sideswiped that you're tempted to do nothing but lie around, sleep late, and watch TV -- don't! Instead increase your feeling of autonomy by increasing what psychologists call your "internal locus of control," the power you have to make easy, small changes.

Here's how it works: Today create three deadlines for new projects and three exciting events to be shared with loved ones. Mark all six of these plans down on your calendar. Then do these things and meet these people in a timely, efficient way. Establishing deadlines -- then meeting them -- will absolutely help you to start to feel like the feisty, kick-ass dominatrix of your destiny that you know you are!

Karen Salmansohn ( ) is a best selling author with over one million books sold. Salmansohn's personal mission is to share information which leads to our world's transformation - to help this world bounce back from its all too many challenges and conflicts.

Want more resiliency psychology tips? Check out my book, THE BOUNCE BACK BOOK: HOW TO THRIVE IN THE FACE OF ADVERSITY, SETBACKS AND LOSS (loved/recommended by Anthony Robbins and Deepak Chopra) by clicking this line right here, right now.

Oh - and if you got something positive out of this article, I'd be BIGTIME appreciative if you spread the viral word - by posting it on FACEBOOK, or TWITTER, or emailing it to friends/family/crushes. Also you can sign up for weekly happiness tips at my famous and FREE Be Happy Dammit newsletter at my site, by clicking this line, right here, right now.