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Option B book summary

Option B book cover

Option B is written very much from Sandberg's own experience of the sudden loss of her husband, and is filled with anecdotes from her life and those around her. Interspersed amongst this are scientific and psychological studies (offered by co-author Adam Grant) on why she might have felt a certain way or what the appropriate action or advice might be for certain situations.

As I was reading the book, two other books kept coming to mind. Man's Search for Meaning and Grit.

My takeaways

  • Grieving is a natural process that one has to go through after a trauma. Whilst it might seem hopeless at the time, know that this will pass. There are specific ways of moving through the grieving process faster and a lot of it has to do with mindset.
  • Being around others who have gone through similar experiences or who are willing to be open and vulnerable with their own feelings will help. However, to get others to open up to you, you need to be willing to open up to them.
  • Be a friend to others who are going through a grieving process. Do not be afraid of confronting the elephant in the room head on, come from a place of understanding, be vulnerable and take specific action when offering to help them.

Other key points

Breathing again

  • After trauma, three P's can stunt recovery:
    • Personalisation - the belief that we are at fault
    • Pervasiveness - belief that an event will affect all areas of our life
    • Permanence - belief that aftershocks of the event will last forever
  • When we're suffering, we tend to project it out indefinitely. We overestimate how long negative events will continue to affect us.
  • Counting blessings increase happiness and health by reminding us of the good things in life.

Kicking the elephant out of the room

  • Sandberg found that people continually avoided talking about the subject. Know that avoiding feelings isn't the same as protecting feelings.
  • If we want people to more open with us, we need to be more open to them and be willing to talk about our feelings.
  • Until we acknowledge it, the elephant is always there. By ignoring it, those who are grieving isolate themselves and those who could offer comfort create distance. Both sides need to reach out.

The Platinum Rule of friendship

  • There are 2 different emotional responses to the pain of others: empathy, which motivates us to help, and distress, which motivates us to avoid.
  • The Platinum Rule - when someone is suffering, treat them as they want to be treated. Respond with understanding, or better yet action.
  • In action, instead of offering to do 'anything', just do something (otherwise the offer shifts the obligation to the aggrieved).
  • The 5 stages of grief as defined by psychiatrist Elisabeth Kubler-Ross:
    • Denial
    • Anger
    • Bargaining
    • Depression
    • Acceptance
  • We now know that these are not linear stages, but instead phases that rise and fall.

Self-compassion and self-confidence

  • Self-compassion is offering the same kindness to ourselves as we would give a friend. It allows us to respond with concern and understanding, rather than criticism and shame.
  • Blaming our actions rather than our character allows us to feel guilt rather than shame. Guilt keeps us striving to improve, to repair the wrongs of their past and make better choices in the future. Shame has the opposite effect.
  • Turning feelings into works can help us process and overcome adversity. There are more than a hundred experiments documenting the therapeutic effect of journaling.
  • Labelling negative emotions makes them easier to deal with and gives us more power over them.
  • Talking into a voice recorder works just as well as writing - it's all about taking the time to self-reflect, process and identify your feelings and thoughts.

Bouncing forward

  • Post-traumatic growth can take 5 different forms:
    • Finding personal strength
    • Gaining appreciation
    • Forming deeper relationships
    • Discovering more meaning in life
    • Seeing new possibilities
  • Tedeschi and Calhoun described personal strength as: "I am more vulnerable than I thought, but much stronger than I ever imagined."
  • <%= link_to( '"He who has a why to live for can bear almost any how."', 'http://bionicjulia.com/books/man-s-search-for-meaning/', target: '_blank' ) %>
  • When people endure tragedies together, or endure the same tragedy, it can fortify bonds between them. "In prosperity our friends know us. In adversity, we know our friends."
  • <%= link_to( '"In some way, suffering ceases to be suffering at the moment it finds a meaning"', 'http://bionicjulia.com/books/man-s-search-for-meaning/', target: '_blank' ) %>. Many find meaning in discovering religion or embracing spirituality. Family and work are other sources of purpose.
  • While we are grieving, it can be hard to see through the pain to new possibilities. Although difficult, the disappearance of one possible self can free us to imagine a new possible self.

Raising resilient kids

  • Help children develop 4 core beliefs:
    • They have some control over their lives
    • They can learn from failure
    • They matter as human beings
    • They have real strengths to rely on and share

"Let me fall if I must fall. The one I become will catch me." - Sheryl Sandberg

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