where a woman can build her strength and freedom

How can we deal with defeat?

The photo depicts defeat and shows a dejected young woman deep in thought.

We have all failed, and experienced defeat.
It is a profound experience.
If we don’t deal with it well, it can destroy us.

When we experience failure, the world may mock us
but it is not the world we are in danger from.
We are in danger from ourselves.
Part of our own mind takes any defeat and torments us with it.
Actually tries to ruin us.

We have all seen people who never recovered from a defeat.
They were unable to stand up to their own continuous self torment.
Maybe we are among them. Maybe we know all too well this daily hell.
I have certainly gone through it.

But recovery from defeat is always possible, even many years later.
I want to offer some ideas on how we can deal with defeat–
past, present and future.
I will offer six steps that have worked for me,
to help us all turn the tables.

Are you with me?
Let’s DO this!

Recognizing a defeat

Defeat is sometimes confused with loss.
They are are not the same thing.
Defeat is more difficult to deal with than loss.

Losses are very painful, but we grieve and eventually get beyond most of them.
Defeat tends to do more lasting psychological damage.
Taking a defeat puts us at risk.
We become vulnerable to self torment.

The sooner we recognize when we have taken a defeat,
the more able we will be to prevent damage.

Some defeats are obvious:
we didn’t get hired, or we got fired;
we weren’t admitted to the school we wanted to go to, or we flunked out;
we didn’t achieve our potential at a sports competition;
we didn’t succeed in attracting the person we wanted to have a relationship with.

Some defeats are not so obvious.
Defeat is sometimes disguised.
We may think we have suffered a loss, when it is actually a defeat.

For example, when our partner leaves us, we may be suffering more
from a feeling of failure than from the absence of this person.
For another example, when someone we love dies, we may be suffering
even more from feelings of guilt for failing to save them than from their absence.

How do we recognize that it is actually defeat that we are dealing with?
Defeat brings on feelings of failure, self condemnation and guilt.
Loss does not.

Six steps to deal with defeat

1. Face it.
Accept the fact. Accept the reality.
Do not deny it. Do not lie, asserting that it never happened.

2. Be kind to yourself.
Ask yourself: What would I say to my best friend if this happened to them?
Then say that to yourself, many times over.

3. Allow yourself to grieve.
Defeat is a major disappointment.
What you hoped for and wanted so badly did not happen, or it did and it ended.

4. Fight back hard.
Fight back against the part of your own mind that is tormenting you.
(The psychoanalytic term for it is your sadistic superego.)
What kind of BS is this???
I am supposed to feel like such a loser, and so guilty,
that I lie down and QUIT???”
Go to hell. I am not listening to this crap.
Why would I allow myself to be destroyed
by these absurd and destructive ideas? I have a LIFE to live!!!”

5. Learn from it.
Once you are feeling a little better, ask yourself:
How could I have prevented this defeat?
How can I prevent such a defeat in the future?

6. Rise above it.
Declare yourself stronger for the experience.
Refuse to be defeated any longer.
Show how resilient you are: Go back out on the field and kick butt.
You will feel proud.
Proud and confident, knowing that no defeat will ever defeat you for long.


What has been the hardest defeat of your life so far?

If you haven’t gotten over it yet, I’m with you.

I hope you will work through these steps, then write and tell me how you are doing.

Dr. Hall