The Richard Nicholls Podcast

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Episode 134: Are You A Lobster?

Almost 2000 years ago the man who was to become St Paul wrote that “Suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character”.

Nietzsche put it quite well with his phrase “That which does not kill us makes us stronger”.

And I went into some specifics about that a couple of years ago after a study was published that described the psychological states of students at Northern Illinois University following the valentines day shootings there in 2008.

This process is often referred to as Post Traumatic Growth, the idea that we can grow stronger because of adversity.

But if everyone who has trauma in some way becomes stronger because of it, they why am I still in a job?
Why is it that people develop anxiety or Post Traumatic Stress Disorder?
What makes one person go one way and another the exact opposite?
According to research the people who due very well following a traumatic event already had a good aptitude for psychological adjustment.

Before the event they usually found the idea of “change” exciting with a “variety is the spice of life attitude”.
And those that were not that good at handling change didn’t do so well. Sounds obvious, but it tells us that if we can all learn how to cope with being uncomfortable, it then makes it easier to cope with being terrified.

But in the modern society when we feel uncomfortable we try our best to stop it, we mask it with medication or alcohol or obsessive compulsions.

We think it’s normal try to hide children from emotional pain or disappointment, and that’s not good!

We need to hurt sometimes, we need to learn how to cope with being let down or disappointed, because when life does pour a bucket of diarrhoea on our heads we need the psychological muscle to handle it.

Let me tell you about lobsters.
Lobsters are soft and vulnerable, easy pickings for a greedy Codfish. So they have developed a hard shell for protection. But the shell is so hard that it isn’t flexible. In order for the lobster to grow it needs to moult. it needs to kick its shell off and grow another one.
In the first 5 years of its life a lobster will moult about 25 times. If it doesn’t moult then it can’t get any bigger. Its stimulus for growth is feeling under pressure, stressed, uncomfortable.
If it had a lobster doctor it would go to it and be told not to worry, it’s perfectly normal.
But if it went to a human doctor it would be given medication to stop it from feeling uncomfortable and would never develop.

We need to be lobsters, we need to learn how to handle being uncomfortable.
Whether that’s by punching and screaming into a pillow or seeing a counsellor and finding a safe way of moving it from in your head to into your past.
It’s important to learn just how strong you actually are.