Developing mental strength is about improving your ability to regulate your emotions, manage your thoughts, and behave in a positive manner, despite your circumstances.
Amy Morin’s 13 Things Mentally Strong People Don’t Do would be good book for individuals struggling with some depression and lack of motivation. One of the things that I wanted to clarify while reading the book was the difference between an emotion and a feeling. According to Psychology Today, “Emotions originate as sensations in the body. Feelings are influenced by our emotions but are generated from our mental thoughts.” So, from my understanding, both can be controlled to some degree. If you apply control to your body, then some emotions can be controlled. Nutritionists and fitness experts would agree that physical motion(s) help emotions. But, when we keep our mind sharp, we can also steer the ship to better waters, so to speak.
Increasing your mental strength isn’t about suppressing your emotions; instead it’s about developing a keen awareness of them. It’s about interpreting and understanding how your emotions influence your thoughts and behavior.
It’s about understanding your thoughts and feelings well enough that you can determine when to behave contrary to them, and when to listen to them.
It seems mindfulness and self-control are key. Giving yourself time to stop and think critically about your thinking and feeling and body seems to be the way to gain some control over a seemingly chaotic moment. It is very difficult to do. It takes practice. And, having learned from my family’s history of alcoholism and domestic violence, your first feelings and emotions are not always right. The reflexive impulse to fix something in a particular way because “that is what anyone else would do” or “society says that’s what anyone would typically do” or “the rules of society dictate that’s what you should do” is not necessarily correct.
Coined as “bi-local expectancy,” the people who understand that they can take a lot of steps to control their lives while also recognizing the limitations of their ability are happier than people who think they can control everything.
Unfortunately, for some of us that have experienced some trauma in our early years, the truth is that we can never – for the rest of our lives – trust our own emotions and feelings, our own judgement. (And, if someone’s advice continues to steer us in the wrong direction, we begin to lose trust and respect.) It is a sad reality that we live with on a day-to-day basis. This is why the experts often say that alcoholism and domestic violence is an illness; you can spread it to others in one form or another. And, it’s insidiously difficult to pin this cruel reality. Amy Morin is really good at highlighting some key important things. First, success requires discipline. She gives great points to follow, but the importance of discipline – consistent, sustained, and long-term – cannot be underestimated. As they say, Rome was not built in a day.
The more time you spending focusing on someone else’s achievements, the less time you have to work on your own goals.
Finally, many people give up because they have a fixed mind-set about their abilities. They don’t think that they have any control over their level of talent so they don’t bother improving and trying again after failure. They think if you weren’t born with a God-given talent to do something, theres no use in trying to learn.
Amy Morin obviously read Carol Dweck’s Mindset: The New Psychology of Success. It will hopefully join the review list soon; make sure to check the table of contents for it. I want to propose that depression and fixed mindsets are also contagious although I probably wouldn’t be the first to say it. The challenging part is coming to terms with the fact that the bad habits and disciplines tend to overpower the good ones. Here, I want to suggest that there are definitely not enough trauma-informed parenting books to prevent the repetition of cycles, even seemingly well-adjusted parents with trauma histories could unwittingly re-create unhelpful cycles.
When you become mentally strong, you will be your best self, have the courage to do what’s right, and develop comfort with who you are and what you are capable of achieving.
So, who is Amy Morin? She’s a licensed clinical social worker, affiliate of Northeastern University, and psychotherapist. A lot of what she talks about in 13 Things Mentally Strong People Don’t Do is common information in the educational circuit, but she compresses it into 13 bullet points. Why that number is still a question to me. Not to be disparaging of her work, but she says the same thing that many of her contemporaries in the self-help genre say. At this point, I am left with the notion that the writers within the psychotherapy and self-help genres achieve success moreso by the uniqueness of their personality rather than the originality of their work. As a literary critic, the cult of personality is a term closely attached with these contemporary genres, so I don’t think I’m far off the mark on this.
Even if you can’t change the situation, you can choose how to respond. You can decide to deal with problems, circumstances, or tragedies that come your way without developing a victim mentality.
Morin, Amy. 13 Things Mentally Strong People Don’t Do, HarperCollins Publishers, 2017. Access on Hoopla 2022.
“The Important Difference between Emotions and Feelings.” Psychology Today, Sussex Publishers, https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-pleasure-is-all-yours/202202/the-important-difference-between-emotions-and-feelings.
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