And why is it critically important?
Our explanatory style is our mode of explaining the good and the bad things that happen in our lives.
It has the power to either unravel our stress or ignite it like gasoline and a lit match. It is crucial for influencing our internal compass, which either leads us to our resourceful self, or straight into our helpless/hopeless self. (We all have both kicking around inside of us.)
It has been directly correlated to our degree of resilience. It paves the way to success or failure, depending upon our management of it. And many people have no awareness of how their own mindset is responsible for their psychological pain.
Our own personal explanatory style is based on a tendency to trend toward one end of a spectrum in the three categories listed below.
Read on to consciously learn your patterns, (sometimes our subconscious driver gets sneaky with us), strengthening your explanatory style in the process. This practice places your most empowered self in your life’s driver’s seat.
1.) Personal vs. External:
Do you have a pattern of telling yourself the major cause of every problem is all your fault (Personal)? Or do you see the problem as External to you, and don’t assign yourself all the blame?
We have to be able to discern our role in every problem, so some degree of healthy introspection is necessary whenever we find ourselves tangled up in a stressful circumstance. Especially if a pattern keeps repeating itself. But shaming or blaming ourselves for every single adverse event isn’t healthy or realistic. It leads to astronomical levels of stress.
We can learn to pause, take a breath, and step back to assess the entire event through the lens of big picture processing. A healthy mindset can see that often an adverse event has external circumstances. This means it may have nothing to do with us, including how another person responds to us. (How another person responds to anything is their business, not ours.)
It’s healthiest to see the situation as being a symphony of events, most of which we probably had no control over. Focus only on the parts you did have control over, and use this as an opportunity to stretch your problem-solving muscles.
PRACTICE— Try to see every adversity from beyond the lens of blame or shame, and remind yourself that most painful circumstances have origins external to us.
2.) Permanent vs. Temporary:
Do you fall into the abyss of believing the major cause of a problem is Unchangeable (Permanent)? Or, do you understand that every situation is Temporary.
Trending more toward a this too is temporary understanding of adversity means that we see the ephemeral nature of every experience. Nothing is permanent– not positive states, not negative states. Practicing this understanding alleviates our need for hyper-vigilance and control, both keystone behaviors of the Highly Sensitive Person.
Challenges are unstable, temporary, impermanent.
PRACTICE– With mindfulness, track the fleeting nature of emotions by speaking out loud, several times a day, what you happen to be feeling in the moment. “I feel excited.” “I feel frustrated.” “I feel pissed off.” “I feel hopeful.” etc, etc. This simple practice tones the vagus nerve (creating resilience in the process). It also trains your mind to understand of the ephemeral nature of circumstances as well as emotions.
3.) Global vs. Specific:
Do you tend to fear that the challenge/ adversity/ problem is Global (it will affect every area of your life)? Or can you recognize that it is more likely Specific (contained to this one event in one area of your life).
Every problem does not result in a global cascade of catastrophes. (Read that sentence three times!)
A global explanatory style is directly linked to action paralysis, hopelessness, and anxiety.
It is a true gift of the Highly Sensitive Person to see three steps ahead in every circumstance. This is exactly why Highly Sensitive People are so valued as business owners, managers, innovators, and creatives…AND it’s also a trait that can easily turn against us if left unmanaged.
PRACTICE– Understand that as a Highly Sensitive Person you are acutely attuned to see connections in life (meaning, you can see that one thing leads to another). But very few adversities are global. Be structured in your practice of focusing on the problem at hand rather than diving into the rabbit hole of chronic catastrophizing. Problem-solving begins with asking yourself to define your first three steps in seeking a possible solution. When those steps are complete, choose your next three steps, and so on until you’ve made it through the dark woods of this challenging circumstance.
Find your patterns! They’re not able to sneak up on you when you do.
Increasing your awareness, being ready for when your Highly Sensitive, super-powered nervous system jumps the tracks– & knowing exactly how to respond to it when it does– is your blueprint to resilience and success.
As always, if you need help clarifying anything within this article, or if you simply have an inspiring story to share within the realm of this topic, please don’t hesitate to leave a comment! You know how much I love to hear from you!
P.S.! — Below is a link to a great book on resilience written by one of my favorite psychology teachers, Karen Reivich. If you’re interested in diving into all things resilience, I highly recommend her book. I’m not an affiliate, I just like to suggest great tools to further your HSP skills.