Being Mentally Strong

DSC05998There is an old saying that “Whatever does not kill you will make you stronger.” I have always understood this to refer to mental strength. I have always understood this to mean that when you hit rough patches in life in you endure you will be stronger, mentally, for some other “bad stuff” that life will throw your way.

Amy Morin’s new book entitled, “13 Things Mentally Strong People Don’t Do,” is something of a primer on what it means to be mentally strong. Sudden deaths in Amy’s own life caused her to focus on her own lack of mental strength, even though she was a professional mental health therapist—dispensing “help yourself” advice to clients. Her mom, who had been healthy and hard-working, died suddenly when she was twenty-six. The two of them had gone to a basketball game the previous day and had laughed, talked, and otherwise had a wonderful time. Within twenty-four hours her mom was dead from a brain aneurysm. A few years later, into her third year of marriage, her husband died suddenly of a heart attack at age 26. She remarried some years later and more unexpected deaths followed. She went into a mental depression, unable to resume work. That is, until she had to make a decision to continue her “why me Lord,” pity party or gird up and face life again. She did the latter and her book was a byproduct of the steps she took to bounce back and “recognize her own choices.”

Morin defines what “mental strength is in the chapter entitled, “The Truth About Mental Strength.” She describes a three-pronged approach to mental strength: Thoughts, “identifying irrational thoughts and replacing them with more realistic thoughts; Behaviors, “behaving in a positive manner despite the circumstances;” and Emotions, “controlling your emotions so your emotions don’t control you.” Learning how to control all three is the key to avoiding dangerous downward spirals that can lead to a self-perpetuating, “woe is me,” “why am I so black and blue,” mindset. Replacing good habits with destructive bad habits is crucial to mental strength. After the sudden death of her husband, she had a choice of how to remember his life—to return to the cemetery and cry or adopt her late husband’s love of life and adventure. She did the later using the anniversary of his death of go parachute jumping.

Morin’s book with the Number 1 thing that mentally strong people don’t do—they don’t waste time feeling sorry for themselves-followed by chapters on “they don’t give away their power,” “they don’t shy away from change,” “they don’t focus on things they can’t control,” “they don’t worry about pleasing everyone,” “they don’t fear taking calculated risks,” “they don’t dwell on the past,” “they don’t make the same mistakes over and over,” “they don’t resent other people’s success, “they don’t give up after the first failure,” “they don’t fear time alone, “they don’t feel the world owes them anything, and “they don’t expect immediate results.”

Morin’s book is a good read with plenty of real-life stories of people who have face devastating tragedies and fell hard enough to “bounce back.” Morin’s book is well worth the read because mental strength is more important than physical strength. In fact, there are thousands of examples of people who have literally moved objects with the sheer strength of mind and will. Ask any marathon runner about mental strength when they “hit the wall” at mile 21 when the feet and legs say, “I quit,” and their mental strength says, “Go another mile.” Ask anyone who has been “written off as dead,” how they bounced back to life with mental strength. Ask anyone who has been the victim of violent crime, child abuse, spousal abuse, or some other type of abuse how they survived and they will tell you that they refused to surrender their minds to their wretched conditions. Mental strength, defined as, “improving your ability to regulate your emotions, manage your thoughts, and behave in a positive manner, despite your circumstance,” is something we all need.

Copyright 2015 – L. Arthalia Cravin. All rights Reserved. No part of this commentary may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without written permission from the author.

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