Home  |  About  |  Books  |   Solutions  |  Retainer 
Gallery  |  Booking  |   Events  |  Blog  |  Contact

Hitting Rock Bottom
- A Way Out -

Today is not only the 11th day of the South African lockdown but also the 28th birthday of our first born son, Waldo. What adds to our family’s emotions today is the fact that we “celebrated” the 17th year of his death yesterday on the 5th of April (2003) – one day before his 11th birthday. He died when he fell down a cliff in front of my eyes during a father-son hike. I’m not sharing this to get anyone’s sympathy – I am a lot stronger as a result, and have had the opportunity to help many people over the past 16  years come to terms with things going wrong in their lives. I am sharing this, because I know that trauma and a sense of loss are equally real when it comes to dealing with financial, relational and physical loss. I had a chance yesterday, and this morning to remind myself of the things, I had to do – just to remain sane, but also to find the strength to move forward after his death. Some of you have experienced a very sudden change in the life you had over the past days, not unlike other traumatic experiences. Our business didn’t escape this either. Although almost everyone is affected in one way or another, some people have it a whole lot worse than others. Besides the horrible effect of the virus in the bodies of those who are affected and have their immune systems compromised, the impact in the lives of families who have lost their parents, spouses, children, and friends – the financial impact is horrendous. I know some companies have completely gone out of business in a matter of days – leaving thousands of employees without the financial means to provide for their families. Many people have lost all their income, with no way or idea where to start over again. This has no doubt affected relationships all over – professional, friends and families... What I’m about to share with you, might be a bit higher up Maslow’s ladder of human needs for a listening ear, because people suddenly worry about the most basic of needs – survival. I get that, but I also know that to make the best possible decisions in this very moment one has to somehow get your mind out of the fearful “fight or flight” state. In the grip of fear we risk making decisions that would possibly help us in the moment, but only amplify the problem(s) we or our loved ones have in the long run – be it a risky loan, substance abuse, suicide or some form of criminal activity. Take a few deep breaths. And read the rest of the article to the end... I’m sure it will help!

I remember the day Waldo died the first feeling I had, was an overwhelming sense of emotional numbness. I believe that is the body’s way of buying time. Completely stunned  - impossible to think, act or even feel. The experience will obviously differ from person to person, but that was me. It can last for minutes, hours or days – mine lasted for several hours. During those couple of hours I had people asking me why I wasn’t crying – that it was okay to cry, to be angry, upset, sad. I heard myself answering that I was okay – somehow minimising what happened - also a sign of denial. As with a sudden big open wound where a limb is suddenly severed, and the nervous system is too numb to communicate the actual pain to the brain; the “fight-or-flight” centre in our primitive brains, protects us from experiencing the full impact of what happened, and gives us time to just be. The numbness eventually made way for a sense of disbelief:” This isn’t happening! I must be dreaming?!” But inevitably the realisation of what happened surfaces with feelings of sadness, anger, fear or bitterness, and the natural question linked to them: “Why? Why me? Why him? Why now? Why in such a way? The question why sometimes do have value... but only when the answer is linked to something we have control over, and can do something about. The causes AND solutions are often not at our disposal, though. It might not have happened as a result of a mistake on your side (or anybody else’s for that matter); and there might not be any plausible explanation available. In this case the “why?” causes a vicious downward spiral into an ever deepening hole, and if we don’t act decisively it can lead to one hitting rock-bottom. A real crisis!

We often tend to isolate ourselves in these situations – sometimes just because we are too broken to engage with others, or because of a feeling of inadequacy, shame or failure. Another danger is to fail to take notice of this “crisis”, or to ignore it in the hope, that it will sort itself out... It won’t. Be brave. You have to DO SOMETHING! Reach out to someone you trust, or learn to trust someone who can help you. In the words of M Scott Peck: ”Problems do not go away. They must be worked through or else they remain, forever a barrier to the growth and development of the spirit.”

The following steps helped me and continue to help me deal with the crises in my life:

  1. ACCEPTANCE: It happened! People sometimes incorrectly believe they have to accept why something happened, before they can move on. This is exactly the risk of the question “why?” If there is no acceptable/valid reason why something happened in your life or your business; you remain stuck on the shore of a raging river, with no way to cross. The idea is not to accept why something happened, or is happening, but one has to accept the fact that something has happened, or is busy happening.

    1. Why did Waldo die on the day he died and the way he died? I don’t know, but he is gone, and is not coming back.

    2. Why are these things happening? There could be many reasons, but the virus and the consequences of it are here – causing major waves in the world. Whether someone evil designed it, whether is as contagious as they believe it is or completely harmless... the world is in a lock down like never before, people are caught in an iron grip of fear, and are doing crazy, illogical things. Accept it!

  2. ASK THE RIGHT QUESTION: The question we should ask is:” WHAT NOW?” The moment we ask this question, we force our minds away from all the emotions in our Limbic system, caused by our primitive brains; towards our pre-frontal cortex to EXPLORE and find solutions. What can be done? Who can help me? What is the worst case scenario? What can I be thankful for? Etc.

  3. TAKE ACTION: The moment we get started with something that we can do, we “feel” better, even though nothing has changed yet. The sooner one moves with the possible solutions the smaller the damage in the end.

  4. DON’T LET UP: Keep searching. Keep chipping away. Keep believing. Keep on keeping on. The break-through WILL come! You can only fail if you stop trying.

Resilience is NOT only to keep on getting back up, but to consciously find, and do what we need to do to improve the situations we’re in.

I don’t want to over simplify these things. I needed the help of professionals, who shared tools, and advice. You may too. Besides the fact that I have helped friends, CEO’s and blue collar workers through group- and one-on-one coaching sessions to come to terms with what happened, and develop an action plan for their lives and their teams, I also have other professionals that I can refer you to. We don’t have to wait for the lock down to end, and definitely not for the problem to increase. Contact me now to schedule an on-line coaching session.

Love and Respect
Stefan Lessing