Written by Doctor G

What if you could remain unsurprised?

Are you a podcast listener? I am, avidly. If you’re not familiar, podcasts are like radio but for impatient people.

There is a podcast I listen to faithfully, called We Can Do Hard Things. In an episode months ago the host (Glennon Doyle) was answering listener questions about family gatherings. In it, she gave some of the best resilience advice I’ve ever heard. She was advising someone who was positive her family member would say casually hurtful, demeaning things at Thanksgiving. Glennon and her co-hosts had a lot of great advice – like choosing whether or not to go, practicing how she might react (or not) when this happens, and setting up some boundaries ahead of time. But the best piece of wisdom was this:

“Try to remain unsurprised.”

I’ve thought about – and adopted this to the best of my ability – this a lot. 

You see, when a situation or experience surprises us, our brains interpret it as much more of a threat than if we expect it. This strategy does not make the experience pleasant by any means, it just removes some of the shock value – and therefore removes some of the negative impact.

So, the next time you’re walking into a work meeting likely to be contentious, the next time you know you will see someone who tries to make you feel “less than,” the next time you’re heading into a conversation that will require some conflict or that you anticipate bad behavior, try to remain unsurprised. You can feel angry, sad, disappointed, displeased… but if you remind yourself that you expected this your brain will have a different chemical response. You will have an easier time navigating the situation because you’ll remind your brain “This not a change. We knew this was likely.” That decreases the likelihood that your brain will release the chemicals that make you feel at risk. 

When you know to expect something – even something bad – you will have an easier time being resilient. And if that bad behavior doesn’t happen you’ll be more cognizant of the win! 

Who or what keeps surprising you in a bad way? Could you reframe this for yourself and try to remain unsurprised? Comment and let me know!
All my best,
Dr. G

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A widely recognized media personality, Dr. G is your go-to expert on resilience. Countless broadcast outlets rely on her contagious humor and illuminating stories to tackle tough topics. She is regularly seen on TV, as well as interviewed for print and digital outlets. Here, she’s answering your questions. Search for the answers you need, or ask her your question now!
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