It may have been a hundred years ago, but the memory of losing in a high school election remains vivid in my memory. It was painful and heart wrenching. Rejection is a big blow to one’s sense of self. It is so difficult to accept defeat especially when one has done her/his best. Our wish is for the world to stop so we can get off.
We experience defeat not only in elections, but in many different ways. From a mundane event such as losing a game or a bet, to the most painful circumstance, such as losing a battle against a disease. Defeat comes when we lose a bid for a project, being left out in a promotion, and losing a contest. It is a difficult process to accept that we did not make it and we were not chosen.
Accepting defeat is exceptionally difficult to the narcissists and those who experience cognitive dissonance. The narcissists have an inflated self-image and think that they are better than anyone. So accepting that somebody else beats them becomes extremely difficult. How can somebody who is inferior win? For them or us, this is impossible.
And so begins cognitive dissonance when we are unable to discriminate between our beliefs and what is real. Reality is denied even in the face of convincing evidence. Defeat is attributed to external factors such as fraud, conspiracy, cheating, and inefficiencies. This is not exclusive to politicians like the outgoing President Trump. We go through cognitive dissonance when we attribute losing to incompetent judges, referees who had been bribed, or a rigged process. Then we go through the stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining and acceptance.
But wallowing in denial is a destructive process—just as how a continuous denial of the results of the US Presidential Elections has turned into violence, destruction and even death. The challenges that President Biden faces in unifying the country are daunting.
There are lessons to be learned for ourselves, for our family, and for our own communities.
Parents should not spare their children from disappointments but instead should guide them to accept that they are part of life. Pain builds character, fosters humility, inspires prayers, and instills courage. We have to develop their coping mechanisms so that they can develop tolerance and resilience. These include expressing their feelings, seeking support from parents, and family members.
It is good for our communities and organizations to develop coping mechanisms. We can look at defeat not as a setback but an opportunity to reflect on our strengths and areas that need strengthening. We were shocked when an international organization gave us a failing grade in an accreditation process. Moving on from anger, we realized that all our processes needed to be written in manuals and all our expenses should have supporting canvasses and receipts. Now, our firm is ready to face any due diligence process.
It is fine to adopt various forms of defense mechanisms such as sublimation. Through the years, my hair has gone from a ponytail to a barber’s cut. My form of release was having a haircut every time I experienced disappointments. Other forms of letting go may be splurging such as when I gave my DOF staff a treat to an expensive Sinatra concert when the Supreme Court issued a TRO against the newly legislated VAT. We cried when Sinatra sang “I did it my way” and felt ready to face another day when he sang “Let me try again.” The TRO was eventually lifted and the VAT has become a buoyant source of government finance.
Indeed, defeat can be our first step to victory.