The Psychology of Mental Toughness
People often seek therapy when they feel overwhelmed, out of control, or unable to take positive action. They think they come to figure things out and may not know that psychotherapy can make you stronger. Making decisions and following through isn’t simple willpower.
How Does This Work?
Life confronts us with unexpected challenges, like a global recession that drives good companies out of business. This becomes your problem when you discover that your employer of 20 years is shutting down next week. Your world has just turned upside down. You don’t know what to do. You catch your breath and find yourself with scary choices. Do you abandon your career? Take any job you can find? Go back to school for more training? Move to a smaller home?
You (and many others) might find it difficult to pick up the phone to get things going and put yourself down for being “weak” or “lazy.” You can’t muster the “get up and go” to get it done. Maybe you force yourself to act. Even then, why was it so hard? Are you really lazy? And how do you overcome that?
When The Going Gets Tough, The Tough Get Going
Our cultural ideal is to be strong in adversity. It’s an ideal because it’s not something everyone can do. It’s also far too easy to see toughness under pressure as an ability you either have or not. But our living world has few absolutes. Most handle some situations well and get overwhelmed by others. Can you strengthen your ability to keep your wits under pressure? Absolutely! Let’s see how you can build mental muscle to be tough in adversity.
Think of a decathlete in the Olympic Games who competes in 10 events that test strength, skill and endurance over a grueling two days. A decathlete’s training cannot neglect any of these attributes and needs time to succeed. Otherwise, they’ll excel at the shot put but fail at the javelin throw or 1500 meter run. Likewise, if you’re going to build mental muscle, you’ll build on your strengths and shore up weaknesses.
A person with mental toughness faces challenges directly and is effective in solving them. I believe that someone who’s mentally tough has a combination of willpower, skill and resilience. How does therapy help you develop these attributes? Let’s look at the elements of mental toughness, and how these are addressed in psychotherapy.
An experienced therapist will consider your specific needs and apply proven approaches to help you. Growth usually doesn’t occur in a simple, straight path but unfolds through a process of trial and error over time. Therapy can help you pace and track this process.
It’s the therapist’s job to explain a treatment plan that specifies goals, methods, time and costs.
Building Mental Toughness with a Therapist’s Guidance
Willpower can be thought of as a combination of intention, effort and courage.