Welcome to the Loser’s Circle
I see a lot of famous people in my practice. Every last one of them—even the ones who just won an Academy Award (especially them)—want to know why they don’t feel like they’re in the “Winner’s Circle.” In their imagination this is an exclusive club that bestows on its members a lifetime free of pain, uncertainty, and effort. But somehow membership eludes them. They still have the same frustrations and insecurities as they had before their success.
What they don’t realize is that there is no Winner’s Circle. It’s an illusion. There is no Easy Street or “in group,” and until they give up this idea, they’re going to feel cheated by life.
But they’re not the only ones who feel cheated. The truth is, everybody feels like they’re in the “Loser’s Circle.” We all experience failure, setbacks, and losses—these are inevitable. We mistakenly think they are the problem, when the real problem is overlooking the potential they hold.
Every setback is an opportunity to develop resilience—that is the true gift failure bestows on us.
There is a sense of inferiority with the Loser’s Circle—that you’re somehow tainted by your failures. But if you can shift your focus from trying to get out of the Loser’s Circle by avoiding failure to being willing to lose, then you have recognized you don’t have to live up to impossible standards. You’re free to learn what you can from your failures, and as you do, you develop resilience.
TAKE CHARGE OF YOUR MOOD WITH THE MOTHER TOOL
Talking about recovering isn’t enough. You need a tool to overcome your demoralization in a way that you can feel. With it, failure becomes less intimidating. In our book Coming Alive, we offer a tool for building resilience that relies on a figure that’s omnipresent in nearly every mythology—the Mother. An involved, loving, and supportive figure, she wants nothing more for you than that you recover from your emotional setbacks.
What makes the Mother such an invaluable resource is that she never loses faith in us; she sees the best even when we’re blind to it. With her infallible optimism, she has the power to lift us back up when we get knocked down.
The next time you think you’re in the Loser’s Circle, try this exercise:
- Feel the Demoralization. Focus on it; feel its heaviness, as if it’s an oppressive substance weighing you down. Visualize that substance so vividly that the demoralized thoughts and feelings are no longer in your head but take on their own form, like a black sludge or some other shape. You’re transmuting the emotions into an almost physical substance running through your body.
- Invoke the Mother. See the Mother hovering above you. She’s a radiant, unconditionally giving force. Release the black, heavy substance you’re holding onto up toward the Mother. She lifts it from your body as if it’s weightless. Watch it rise until it reaches her; she gladly absorbs it into herself and it disappears.
- Feel Her Love. Now feel her eyes upon you. They radiate absolute confidence in you; she believes in you unreservedly, like no one else ever has. With her unshakable faith filling you up, everything feels possible.
Most people believe that the only way to regulate their mood is by “winning.” But in order to do that, you need constant success, which no one has. In our culture, which is so externally focused, it wouldn’t even occur to us that we could and should be responsible for our own mood, no matter the degree of our success or failure. The Mother tool frees you from the unhealthy pressure of needing to succeed at all costs and gives you a way to recover from setbacks and take charge of your mood—no matter what your circumstances.
This article first appeared on Quora. It is Phil's answer to the question, "What are some helpful strategies for coping with failure and setbacks in life?"