The Best Way To Deal With Things That Are Beyond Your Control

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Every day, each of us wrestles with difficult situations that are beyond our control. From something as routine as being cut off in traffic to something as devastating as losing a job, life is full of “bad stuff,” as Brené Brown says. Whether those uncontrollable bad things are large or small, the big question people have is how to effectively handle something they can’t change. Brown, a vulnerability researcher and best-selling author, believes she has the answer.

As with much of her research, Brown focuses on what she calls “the story,” your interpretation of what has just happened to you. Everyone, everywhere, tells themselves some type of story in these circumstances — “I got cut off because I was driving too slow; I hate driving, I clearly don’t belong on the road,” or, “I was laid off because my boss has a personal vendetta against me; he never liked me.”

The first step in dealing with situations beyond your control is to pay close attention to what narrative you’re constructing in these situations, Brown tells Oprah during an interview for “SuperSoul Sunday.” Things that are beyond your control are just that: beyond your control. Don’t let yourself make up a story that suggests otherwise.

“You still very much have to watch the story that you’re making up about that,” Brown says.” “Is my first story about that, ‘I did something that deserved it,’ ‘Someone’s out to get me’? What is that first story?”

For example, when dealing with a cheating partner, many people tend to tell themselves an initial story that focuses on their role in the cheater’s behavior.

“If your partner is cheating on you, that’s often outside of what you’re doing, but is your story, ‘It’s because I’m unlovable, because I’m not good enough, I’m not thin enough, I’m not pretty enough, I’m not wealthy or powerful enough,’?” Brown asks.

This initial story is the first of three phases that happen in these types of moments. In her book, Rising Strong, Brown refers to this first phase — acknowledging the emotions behind your storytelling — as “the reckoning,” and there’s a clear reason why it’s so important.

“That first story dictates a lot about how we move forward,” she says.   

The next stage is the “rumble,” when it’s time to get challenge yourself to dig for the truth, as opposed to hiding behind a false story for self-preservation. If a partner cheats on you, for example, you’d end up rumbling with a lot of complex emotions.

“When you have to look at betrayal, you have to rumble with grief, shame, trust, ultimately maybe forgiveness,” Brown says.

Forgiveness is an interesting topic for Brown. She has conducted a lot of research and focus groups on the topic, only to have her own preconceived notions about forgiveness completely challenged. Her big realization? Forgiveness is completely and totally enmeshed with grief, which Brown came to understand after listening to the dean of her church speak one day.

“He said this sentence: ‘In order for forgiveness to really happen, something has to die,'” she quotes. “I remember putting my hands over my face and I was like, oh my God, I had no idea that embedded deep into forgiveness is grief… In order for forgiveness to happen, something has to die.”

This is why the rumble phase can be so difficult, especially when it comes to dealing with circumstances beyond your control.

“You are grieving your idea of what you had,” Oprah adds. “There is a mourning, and that’s what the sadness is about… It’s like you’ve now got to let that go and create a new normal for yourself.”

“Yes,” Brown says. “Yes.”

“SuperSoul Sunday” airs Sundays at 7 p.m. ET on OWN.

More from SuperSoul.tv:

Are you hooked on the story of your struggle?

The 2 most common ways we offload hurt

The 3 most dangerous lies we tell ourselves

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Faith Nouri is licensed to practice law in both the U.S. and Canadian Federal Courts. Ms. Nouri is an attorney at law in California, and a Barrister & Solicitor in British Columbia, Canada.

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