The art of knowing how to lose: how to learn to handle losses in a positive way?

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In the game of life, as important as winning is knowing how to handle defeats in a healthy way, without kicking boards or attacking the referee. Obviously, there is no person who love it losing: it is an unpleasant and temporary feeling that invades us and that is difficult to hide. And although a bit of rashness can be a motivator for achievement, what you have to understand is that failure has consequences that are beyond the will and have a biological root.

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When we fail in an achievement, whatever it is – losing money on a bet, failing the entrance exam or a sports final, etc. – our body responds automatically by firing neurotransmitters such as cortisol that makes us feel bad and stressed. Our blood pressure rises, the face tightens, the hair stands on end, the muscles harden. It’s the brain’s way of preparing for fight or flight, dichotomies our ancestors faced millions of years ago when looking for food. That is why he who does not know how to lose instinctively seeks the fight.

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Being an adult implies managing emotions at socially accepted levels. Nothing is more terrible than an adult throwing a tantrum. And those skills are learned at home. “If you have grown up in a strict family environment that does not accept defeats, it will be very difficult for you to learn to lose or to see defeats for what they are: opportunities to analyze yourself, see what others did and try to do better, ”says Dr. María Elena Escuza, Director of Psychology at Norbert Wiener University.

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Psychological First Aid: How to Cope with Frustration?  (GETTY)
Psychological First Aid: How to Cope with Frustration? (GETTY)

Ultra-competitive environments often generate bad losers. We see it a lot in sport, something paradoxical given the nature of the so-called “sportsmanship”. There are the angry chess players who sweep boards after the check, the tennis players who break their rackets or the footballers who consider it a humiliation to wear second-place medals. Life in society, especially in cities, generates competition. Adjectives like “failed” or “loser” are often among the most hurtful.

Children learn to lose in daily play. While winning is important, because it strengthens your self-esteem, losing with a smile, congratulating the winner, and not boycotting their victory is an equally important skill for your future life. “Losing can shock you a bit at the beginning, but in the end we have to learn to demonstrate resilience, overcome and move on,” says Dr. Escuza. Knowing how to win is another important skill: mockery or arrogance against the loser should never be tolerated.

Are you one of the people who tends to get angry every day?  Well, maybe that anger isn't bad.  (Photo: Freepik)
Are you one of the people who tends to get angry every day? Well, maybe that anger isn’t bad. (Photo: Freepik)

When adults don’t know how to lose

An adult who does not know how to lose will not have a good quality of life. Your personality will deprive you of meaningful friends or relationships. The good news is that there are ways to learn this skill even at a late age. “The fundamental thing is that the person is aware that they have this personality characteristic; if you recognize that you have a problem with anger, emotion management or frustration, we have 50% of the problem solved ”. Clinically this can be treated in therapy with a specialist.

Also forms of self education. There are tutorials and courses on YouTube about techniques such as minfulness, yoga or tai chi, which are exercises in which self-knowledge, meditation and relaxation are learned, highly recommended for people with anger problems at losing who need a way to lower the revolutions of your mind.

Tantrums on the first day of class reflect unfulfilled goals
Tantrums on the first day of class reflect unfulfilled goals

Some guidelines to start learning how to lose:

Understand frustration: It is the emotion that happens when we fail in an achievement. It cannot be avoided, because it escapes the will, but it can be handled in a positive way. If a child becomes frustrated, it is not advisable to yell at him or minimize his feeling or say “don’t be angry”. Behaviors are corrected, not emotions. The adult should deal with his frustration with intelligence and even with elegance if he can. If the anger is very strong, perhaps it would be best to express that you are upset. Give yourself a few seconds to calm down and not act “hot headed.”

Respect the results: Whoever enters a game, challenge, contest or race does so by accepting some rules established in advance and the possibility, even, that there is a person judging the performances (referee, jury). You must enter into competition with the conviction that the result may not be in your favor, no matter how confident we are. That gives us the ability to prepare for an unexpected result.

Choose your battles well. Winning is important but it should not push us into the nonsense of wanting to win to win. In a situation of failure, it is important to determine the true value of whatever was at stake. Often the value of the disputed does not merit anger. If that is the case, a defeat should teach us the value of perseverance.

Learn to let go. Consistency and motivation are important when you want to go after a dream. It is often said that he who perseveres achieves, but this is not a law written in stone. Faced with the reality of continued failure, it shouldn’t make us feel bad to abandon that dream or career and focus our energies on an achievement that brings us more satisfaction.

Take on the duel. In the event of large losses, such as the death of a family member, the bankruptcy of a business, the loss of close competition, it is natural for our psychology to enter a process of depression and grief. Will power can be little here. The important thing, if you are in that trance, is to understand that it is not eternal. That it is a process with steps (denial, anger, negotiation, depression and acceptance) that are not eternal. Eventually we will feel better. In case the loss cannot be overcome, it is urgent to consult a specialist. //


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