No-Win Scenarios: Ways to Cope

07/01/2012 09:51 am ET | Updated Aug 31, 2012

How often do we find ourselves in a situation that seems un-winnable or, in the extreme, impossible? When this happens, it is difficult to make sense of the things that have happened to us. There are situations that, regardless of what we do, will change us forever. When these life-altering events happen, we can expect a period where a lack of perspective dominates our life. We often search for ways to recover, by fixing it and making some sense of why it occurred.

All of us have at one time or another faced the following circumstances that most would agree seem like a no-win scenario:

  • Life threatening illness -- "I'm sorry, but there's nothing more we can do."
  • Discrimination -- all types
  • Abuse -- being the victim of child abuse or physical/emotional abuse
  • Home Modification -- foreclosure, credit problems and financial loss
  • Family Court -- child custody, divorce and unfair court orders
  • Extreme Weather -- earthquakes, tornadoes, flooding
  • War -- going, staying behind, paying for it, dying for it, fighting because of it

When we find ourselves between a rock and a hard place, most of us will experience a range of negative emotions at the onslaught: anger, grief, disbelief, or complete denial. Eventually something positive will emerge, but typically not right away, and this leaves us grappling with the uncomfortable feeling of being unable to control or fix the situation.

How do we move forward when everything has changed?

5 Ways to Cope With No-Win Scenarios

Acceptance -- Resignation that your life will not be the same again. This is the hardest situation to overcome. When circumstances have taken the life you cherished and enjoyed away from you, what stands in its place may never measure up. When we focus, however, on what we are missing instead of what remains, we will suffer longer. We must agree that our life has changed and make the decision to move forward embracing that change.

Fight -- Anger may be what we need to push ourselves forward out of complacency or despair. Fighting as an alternative can keep you focused when the odds are stacked against you. If fighting is your only alternative, then don't give up. Do not give in to fear. Fight to make things rights again, to make something better or fight to move in a different direction. As the saying goes, "Live to fight another day."

Compromise -- We may not feel like we won but neither will we lose everything. This choice is less drastic than fighting, but a settlement can help in resolving things so you can move on. No-win scenarios can trigger stress responses in the body, and compromise helps alleviate this distressing condition and it makes for a better choice in some instances.

Healing -- This is the perspective you need to search for in all challenging situations. Repairing that which is broken in our lives allows for balance to reemerge. Healing as it relates to illness may show us that in the course of our illness, cure may cease to be an option, but remember that no hope of a cure does not mean no hope at all. When you receive the information that the illness is serious, it can feel like a no-win scenario, but with a support team who can help manage the challenges you'll face, you can live with a serious illness for as long as possible and as well as possible.

Creative -- Even though we are intelligent and organized, being in what feels like a no-win scenario makes it hard to keep things straight. Think of solutions that you have never tried or maybe tried in the past but didn't work. Try again. Looking at your scenario with "fresh eyes" can lead you to a new perspective and ultimately a solution. Know that people are willing to help, and becoming comfortable asking for assistance, advice or information may lead to additional opportunities that were not available before. When we diligently look for solutions and "open every door" that is available to us, we will find that there are fewer no-win scenarios.

Something positive remains after all devastation; it may take years to see it or lifetimes to understand it, but it is there.

We must be diligent in our efforts to overcome the challenges we face in our lives and never give up. When we refuse to look at situations as un-winnable or impossible, we gain the invaluable experience that will allow us to move forward in a new direction.

For more by Linda Durnell, click here.

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