How to use setbacks to grow stronger

You can use self-hypnosis to become a better person – and, as a side effect, a better hypnotist. But what happens when you have a setback? What do you do when you fall short of your own standards?

I have a confession to make. Yesterday was not a good day for my personal development. No, it was a pretty major setback.

I need to clear my head so I go to the park. It’s a gorgeous park, it’s pretty quiet and its close. I like to walk through it, maybe sit for a bit.

Anyway, there are two kids there. They would be about 10 or 12 years old. And they’re blocking the path. “Got any change for the bus?” one of them asks as I try to go around.

I say no. I’m getting a bad vibe off these kids and I’ve learned to trust my instincts. I don’t know what would have happened if I’d said yes. Would they have snatched my wallet from my hands?

Possibly. Probably. It wasn’t an innocent request, that’s all I know.

And then one of them – the one who spoke – put his hand against my chest to stop me. My instincts are screaming. What kind of kid touches a stranger like this? Placing an arm on my shoulder would be pushing the boundaries. But my chest? No.

So I step back and head around them. They move to cut me off. “Please, mister! We just need money for the bus!”

And he places his hand against my chest again.

Now, here’s what’s happening in my world:

My lizard brain is spooked. These strangers are brazen enough to touch my torso uninvited. This is a physical threat. Sure, I weigh double these pipsqueaks. But lizard brain isn’t risking it.

My mammal brain is angry. Just as they violate my sense of physical safety, they violate my social safety. They are lying, I am sure of it. Their words, tones and behaviour scream bad intentions. Do not trust them.

My human brain receives this and starts calculating. Shut the situation down now. Establish your boundaries. Get them out of your face.

As for my enlightened brain? It’s sleeping on the job or something. Because before I know it, I close the distance to the chest-toucher and say, with all my fury:

Do not touch me.

(I may have added a few choice swearwords too. You get the idea.)

Well, it works. He hesitates. His friend hesitates. They’re uncertain. They had control and I took it away.

I turn and walk away. They shout something but I ignore them.

Now, I can justify my behaviour. Who knows what they might have tried, had I shown any “weakness”? I ended the situation without violence. I never even touched either of them.

Still, that’s not the sort of person I want to be. There was a more enlightened solution – one that didn’t need my anger. One that didn’t involve me having to leave the park. My sanctuary.

I say that I trust my instincts. Maybe I should trust them with this. Maybe that was, in fact, the best resolution I could have achieved.

It doesn’t feel like a win. As they say in Japan, tsuyoku naritai – I want to be stronger.

And today, I am stronger.

How to handle mindset setbacks

Yesterday, I was an angry wreck. The downside of having obsessive tendencies is I kept reliving the encounter. Each cycle made me angrier. I knew it was happening but I was stuck.

Until I wasn’t.

How did I break the pattern?

Firstly, I forgave myself. I fell short of my own standards – whether they were realistic or not – and that’s okay.

Secondly, I saw the value in the experience. If this was a test of my mindset, I did better than I would have even a year or two ago. Confronted like that, I may have lost my wallet or lashed out. Or both, probably.

Besides, this is excellent material for my personal development. When people wrong you, it gives you the chance to forgive them. If that sounds twisted, I get it, but it’s a valuable exercise in compassion.

Thirdly, I know what self-hypnosis therapies work best for me. Almost every culture uses dreams to gain wisdom and insights. I use them to process emotions.

For example, I woke at 4am with a sense of peace. It didn’t last, as the anger bubbled back to the surface. So I dreamed again, the sort of waking dreams you get while snoozing. It wasn’t lucid dreaming, as I don’t need control. All I do is let it happen.

As I write this, I’m thinking about the experience. But I’m not reliving it. It’s more like a memory of a memory.

Maybe using dreams for self-therapy doesn’t work as well for you. That’s fine, there’s no single approach. The point is to learn how best to process emotions. Some people numb their feelings with alcohol, food or gambling. Some take it out on others. We are stronger than that. Use your strength to deal with the emotions and grow from them.

This is a path with no destination. To gain the benefits, you must tread lightly, move forward and stay on the path. Setbacks will happen. Use them. Let no setback leave you until you have learned everything from it. Then toss it like garbage and move forward.

Want to learn more? Download my free meditation eBook. Not because I’m perfect, but because I’m not. The path is pleasant when we walk together.