Life isn’t fair. Now what?

What to do when life isn’t fair. Advice from a Humanistic Psychologist. 

One of the questions I get regularly is how to maintain not only a sunny outlook when things go wrong, but more importantly, how to maintain our sense of moral justice when the universe seems set on punishing us for no reason whatsoever.

We humans are programmed to look for cause and effect. We are programmed to believe that if something happens. It has a cause. And further, if something happens to us, we probably caused it.

The problem is that sometimes, stuff just happens. You can do everything right and things still won’t go your way. It is very easy for religious people to place the blame on a god or a devil or to rationalize what just happened as cosmic karma or based on a cause and purpose we have no real knowledge of. But Humanists? We are stuck with the reality that stuff just happens. There is no one to blame and no way to rationalize it.

So, the problem we have to solve is how to not let reality get us down when reality is being manifestly unfair to us. Especially since we are smart enough to know that formulation is anthropomorphizing reality and it’s ridiculous.

I have a friend who is a Humanistic Psychology. His name is Dr. Leon Seltzer and he writes a column over at Psychology Today. He says “that discovering how to accept the bad things that gratuitously happen to you--that is, to take them in stride--is absolutely crucial if you're to achieve a steady, virtually unshakeable, state of well-being.”  I agree.

The question is how. Dr. Seltzer recommends at AAA approach, which is basically freethought combined with the serenity prayer and a healthy dose of self-empowerment. Here are what the 3 A’s stand for. (Assess, Accept, Act)

A- Assess (this is the freethought part) – Assess just how bad this setback really is. In the moment in may feel unjust, but if you think about it, it may just be a temporary setback.

A – Accept (this is the serenity prayer part) – Accept that there are things you have control over and somethings you don’t. Sometimes bad things happen that you don’t have control over. Stop fighting that reality and some serenity will follow even if it is a disappointed serenity.

A – Act (this is the self-empowerment part) Once you have assess just how bad it is and have gained some acceptance that it won’t magically change on it’s own just by appealing to the universe for fairness, the next thing you need to do is decide how to act given what has happened. Do you need help? Is there a work around? You don’t have to stay stuck or stay down. You can choose another course of action. Sure, you might get knocked down again, but trying to succeed is better than wallowing in despair.

To read Dr. Seltzers full essay and others – go here:

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