Back in the 1970s when I was growing up, before the era of touch screens and computer games, Weebles were all the rage. These little egg-shaped toys were perfectly balanced, earning themselves the strap line: “Weebles wobble but they don’t fall down”. And it was true, they didn’t. Whether their tree house had been struck by a natural disaster or they were being sold at a local jumble sale, those resilient little folk always got back up and back in the game.
When I am working with my clients to help them overcome whatever they feel is holding them back in life, we discuss “wobbles” and “blips” right from the start. We all have ups and downs in life and thriving certainly isn’t all about living a shiny, perfect life in a constant state of bliss. I work with clients to help them recognise that these wobbles are an important part of the learning process and that, without them, they are less likely to truly and permanently develop the skills that are crucial to navigating through all the different situations that make up a life.
So what is a blip? It can be thought of as when a person has a wobble (in response to either a real or a perceived event) and as a result over-reacts dramatically, feeling overwhelmed, scared or incapable. This is because they haven’t quite yet built up the belief in their coping skills around being able to tolerate challenging feelings or situations. In this case, some clients overthink the wobble and lose perspective, making a huge mountain out of what could have been a teeny-tiny molehill to step over on their road to thriving.
To give you an example: somebody who is in the process of working to overcome a needle phobia has to go for a blood test. They use their thrive skills in the run up to the appointment to create calm, keep perspective and manage their thinking. They do really well and have the blood test. But because they are, understandably, still learning to cope with situations like this and they weren’t as cool as a cucumber throughout the whole procedure, they see it as a failure. They use all-or-nothing thinking where they would only be happy if they had been perfectly calm throughout. They then lose perspective of the fact that most people just tolerate blood tests, seeing them as a, sometimes necessary, part of looking after our health. As a result, what could have been processed as real progress is distorted through perfectionist thinking and is seen as a failure.
As well as the all-or-nothing/black and white and perfectionist thinking that contributes to keeping a blip going longer than is necessary, another unhelpful thinking style may then kick in: learned helplessness. This thinking style usually develops in childhood and was first described in experiments carried out in the 1960s by Seligman and Maier. It involves the belief: “I will never be able to do it, it won’t work and I’m going to fail so what’s the point?” We aren’t born with this belief: learning to walk and talk are both tricky life skills where we make mistakes, learn from them and keep going. We don’t decide that it’s too hard and give up, we persist until we are walking and talking, no matter how many challenges and potential frustrations present themselves. Unfortunately, some people go on to develop learned helplessness in some, if not all, areas of their lives because of the way they learned to react to events, feelings and situations. It’s not hard to see how believing you can’t do something leads to a self-fulfilling cycle, especially when it comes to overcoming blips.
The really brilliant news is that all the unhelpful beliefs and thinking styles that result in people over-reacting to a blip, can be overcome with the evidence-based positive psychology of The Thrive Programme. When I work with clients, I help them to understand that it is how they REACT to a blip that is so important: they have the choice whether to learn from it, draw a line under it and move on or blow it out of proportion and use it as a stick to beat themselves with. If they adopt the attitude that they will keep pushing forward after a blip, they will, with persistent and continuous effort, learn to thrive.
My job as a Thrive Programme Consultant is to support them throughout the process, helping them to learn the life skills to get over any hurdles. I always ask clients to contact me between sessions if they are struggling to get over a blip so we can get them moving forwards as soon as possible. As time goes on, I love to see them being able to do this for themselves, as their thrive skills become new, permanent, helpful habits.
If you would like to overcome anxiety, depression, stress, panic attacks or a phobia and learn how to thrive through the ups and downs of life, please contact me to book a free initial consultation.