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3 Ps of the Psychological Roller Coaster….. Towards a better belief system

, October 13, 2017, 0 Comments

psychological-roller-coaster-marketexpress-inA ride on the roller Coaster is an exhilarating experience for most. The adrenaline rush, the surge in the air and mighty drop down are moments of intense joy for many. But what if the track of this roller coaster is your life.

Each day people go through a number of emotional upheavals and find the Psychological roller coaster an unmanageable and exhausting proposition.

How do we ride on such a roller coaster? The key to success at this attempt is to deal with the 3 Ps of Pessimism.

Radhika was a disturbed woman. She was looking at the mark sheet of her son. In spite of all the efforts, the marks did not seem to go anywhere. In fact they were much lower than when she had kept the controls of the studies in her hands. She had decided to seek a private tutor with a belief that his expertise would provide better guidance to her son. Suddenly she was wondering if the low marks were a reflection of her inability to devote enough time. “Had she failed to create a good foundation for her son? Was her high profile job becoming a hindrance in her son’s progress? Would things improve from here? No way…” She could almost she her son failing miserably at the tenth grade. She was almost short of concluding that she was a total failure in all the roles; an irritated mother, nagging wife, hassled professional, unavailable daughter. She was nothing but a total failure.

We see our colleagues, friends, neighbours, clients and patients going through such a Psychological roller coaster constantly. They find themselves up in the sky at one moment and down in the dumps on another. This state also perceived as Stress, is considered by the World Health Organization (WHO) as the “health epidemic of the 21st Century”. The prevalence of work related stress in the Indian population, according to Optum, is as high as 46 %. Anxiety disorders and depressive symptoms in the working population are on a rise. Reporting of suicidal ideations and attempts in professionals indicate a need for an immediate intervention by individuals and corporate. Stigma associated with psychological distress and silence maintained by the society at large is putting additional pressure on those under duress to wear a mask of “wellness” and go on.

Productivity is hampered, profitability is reducing. The ultimate impact of this is a workforce with unresolved issues, psychosomatic problems leading to frequent absenteeism, disengagement and low morale. So much so, that this year theme of the World Mental Health Day 2017, celebrated on the 1oth of October 2017 every year is Mental Health at Workplaces.
Radhika seems to fall a prey to the 3 Ps of psychological peril or Pessimism in her ride on this psychological roller coaster. A phenomena studied by Martin Seligman at the University of Pennsylvania, the 3 Ps are a part of the explanatory style of an individual leading to a pessimistic approach towards life.

The 3 Ps refer to:
Personalization: This explanatory pattern is a tendency to attribute all the failures or negative outcomes to oneself. People with this explanation style normally believe that all wrong “is all my fault…” and all good “is by fluke”. While it’s important to take responsibility for ones behaviour, it’s suicidal to attribute all that’s happening in the outside world to personal shortcomings. Such a personalization can guarantee a feeling of learned helplessness, extreme anxiety and depression, further debilitating one’s belief that he/she can cope with stress.

Permanence: The major source of stress when things do not progress as expected are not the happenings themselves, but the evaluation that the pain and suffering would be permanent. The common words found in the self talk of such people are “never, always, none and all.” With such a belief of permanent misfortune, there is hardly any hope for respite or resolution of the impasse.

Pervasiveness: Many people believe in the dominos effect, wherein people think that if one thing goes wrong in one of the life spaces, its impact will engulf the entire life causing negative outcomes in all walks of life. What can Radhika do about her situations? Should the organization be bothered helping employees cope better? Can there be a planned approach to deal with this Psychological roller coaster? The answer to each of the above question is a firm yes.
At an individual level people can benefit from considering the 3 Ds of wellness

Diagnose: All human beings have to deal with Negative automatic thoughts (NATs), first describe by Psychiatrist and Cognitive Therapist Dr. Aaron Beck. These are negative, uninvited, persistent and most often goal interfering thoughts. Diagnosis of the thoughts as Productive vs. Non productive, helpful vs. hindering becomes the first step of self management in the journey of wellness. For example, Radhika would have to look at her thought “Would things improve from here? No way…” and understand the unproductively to continue to toy with this thought.

Dispute: Once the thoughts have been captured and categorized, an individual would benefit from an active disputing of the negative thoughts, to bring them to a more rational platform. At this stage Radhika would try to dispute “no way…” part of the thought, challenging “what is the guarantee that there would be no solution, how does one define improvement and what would be a more realistic and achievable goal in the given circumstance.”

Direct: Finally directing ones resources and efforts towards the set goal and priority is likely to lead to a sense of control for an individual that ultimately enhances ones self-coping belief and reduces the perceived stress in the situation. Developing a realistic expectation and a workable plan may not eliminate stress from Radhika’s life but would definitely help her improve her coping.

Organizational Level
Many progressive organizations are making mental health an integral part of the wellness program of employees. Employers should appoint mental health professionals and conduct mental health awareness programs, as a starting point to create a mental health wellness culture in the organization. Regular mental health camps, one to one counselling facilities, help lines and a greater sensitization of the work force towards prevalence of psychological illness and their management can help in the de-stigmatization of mental illnesses. Employee policies should clear spell out support and acceptance of diverse work groups. Employees coping with mental illness of a family member, bereavement, depression and transitions should be provided adequate support, flexibility and guidance wherever necessary.

To sum up, in life some can choose to stay away from the real roller coaster. However, no one can permanently avoid a ride on the Psychological roller coaster. It is a part and parcel of our very existence and has to be transcended. While we may not be able to create a world that stress-less, we can always aim at a response pattern and a work environment that leads to less- stress. Cognizance of the 3 Ps and the 3 Ds becomes the safety belt of this psychological roller coaster. So fasten your safety belt and get set go…..