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  • Steven Sutton, LCSW

Resilience and the Three Ps

Setbacks and losses come in all shapes and sizes. It can be valuable to practice applying the principals of overcoming and finding peace in situations even when the stakes don’t seem high. If we practice the skills that work when the stakes are low, then when something traumatic happens in our life we increase the likelihood we’ll be ready.

When we meet with setbacks and losses in life, the psychologist Martin Seligman found that there are three common thoughts that make it harder for us to recover:

  • Personalization — the belief that we are at fault

  • Pervasiveness — the belief that an event will affect all areas of our life

  • Permanence — the belief that the aftershocks of the event will last forever

In other words, people in pain tend to stay in pain when they have reoccurring thoughts of, “It’s my fault this is awful, everything is awful, and it’s always going to be awful.” When I listen to people who are ruminating about something that has been difficult for them to change or experience differently, I often hear them stuck in one or more of the three P’s. I invite you to be on the lookout for these thoughts in your life. Begin to notice and name them. Observe how they change once they’re observed and named.

Here are some questions to consider asking yourself:

  1. What areas of my life are calling on my resilience to overcome right now?

  2. Are there any ways that I am personalizing them? Do I carry a belief that the issue is my fault?

  3. Do I carry a belief that the problem is true across several different areas of my life?

  4. Do I carry a belief or a fear that things will always be this way?

Consider making some notes if you notice these self limiting beliefs in your thinking. Observe without judgment the way these beliefs impact your experiences and thoughts. See if you can reframe some of your thoughts to gain perspective.

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