How to Turn a Set-Back into a Comeback - Christine Kane

Jill is ready for a comeback.

She has gone through a year of what felt like sheer hell as she watched the proverbial wrecking ball do its thing with her life. No need to give you all the details. A few words will do the trick:

Husband. Best friend. Betrayal. Discovery. Heart-break. Divorce. Disillusionment.

In other words…

The works.

Jill recently told me, “Okay, so the divorce is done. I’m on my own. I want to get back on track. I want momentum again. But I just can’t seem to get going.”

Anyone who has had a major set-back in her life knows this feeling all too well. On one level, you can understand the desire to get moving again. But on the other level, there’s a deeper, more hidden craving:

“I want to stop feeling this pain. I want to forget this happened. I want my heart to stop hurting.”

This is tender territory. You know you’re ready for a comeback. But you’re still drained and haunted by emotions, questions, shame and blame.

This is not a time to rush headlong into new flurries of activity. Awareness, Intention, and Creativity are the energies required now.

So, let’s start with a few reminders. These are the bigger ideas to remember as you move through your day.

This isn’t what you are “supposed to believe.” (i.e., Another thing to beat yourself up about.)

This is the level of Intention. (i.e., The deeper truth you choose as guidance, even when you’re not necessarily feelin’ it yet.)

Six Reminders about Set-Backs

1 –The Daytime Television World-View Doesn’t Promote Healing.

If you live in the Daytime Television World-View, then you see Jill as the victim. (Or “Good person.”) You see her husband as the perpetrator. (Or “Asshole.”)

While this world-view might land Jill a guest spot on Dr. Phil, it won’t help her move forward or heal. That’s because labels, judgments, should’s, and shouldn’ts keep us from showing up as Creators in our lives. They are pronouncements, which by their very nature, are designed to keep us “reacting” at all times.

The truth is that in this situation, people behaved unconsciously – and most likely, the unconscious behavior began years before the actual fall out.

This doesn’t mean that Jill won’t feel like a victim at times. Or that you “shouldn’t” get resentful, or jealous, or angry.

However, the deeper healing will come when, at some level, you remember that out beyond the Drama Triangle (victim, perpetrator, rescuer) there’s a deeper learning, and that you actively played a creative role in this situation. When you can accept that (without self-judgment), you can begin to heal, let go, and experience transformation.

Feeling better is temporary. Transformation is forever.

2 – You’re not going to get back to your “Old Self.”

Sometimes during set backs, we just want things to be the way they used to be. We want our Old Self back.

But think about this. Your “Old Self” was the self that was living so unconsciously that this situation was created in order to wake her up!

You don’t want “Old Self.” You want EXACTLY who you are now. Warts, bruises, disillusionment, and all. These things transmute into wisdom. A New Self. A Wiser Self.

She is there, waiting for this stuff to fall away so she can rise up.

3 –Repressing Emotions Keeps You Stuck

Even when the worst is over, the nature of emotion is that it can creep up and take over at unexpected, and often inconvenient times. Bitterness, shame, self-hatred, jealousy, anger. All of it is a part of the human buffet of emotional ranges in painful situations.

Now, it’s not that you should let these things rule your life from here on out. But if you try to push them down, then the creative energy that is meant to propel your life forward, is actually working so hard at repressing these emotions that its ability to help you heal is diminished.

4 – Time May or May Not Heal All Wounds. Time is YOUR Choice.

“Time heals all wounds.”

Really? Does it? Cuz most of us know at least a few people for whom time has only deepened their anger or resentment. And we also know some people who healed so quickly and moved on with such velocity that it seemed almost like denial.

The issue is not “time.” The issue is you. You can heal in an instant. Or you can take some time. But the truth is that you choose how much time. Don’t be a victim of time.

5 – After a Set-Back, We May Often Become “Addicted to Reaction.

Jill said, “I want to get back on track, but all I seem to do now is spend my time putting out fires.”

This told me everything.

When we spend any prolonged amount of time in a place of reaction, it is very easy to forget how to get back into the energy of Proactivity (or Creativity). Remember, Reactivity is the opposite of Creativity. And Creativity is the energy that has the power to heal, transform, change, and uplevel our bodies and lives.

Often, when a set-back seems to destroy someone, it wasn’t because of the set-back itself. It was because the person never consciously moved herself back into her Creative or Proactive space. She stayed stuck in the energy of Reacting to her life.

One of the first places to begin your comeback must be re-introducing creativity and proactivity back into your being – little by little.

6 – Mental Awareness is one thing. Body awareness is another.

You can mentally understand each of these reminders. You can even tell yourself you’ve got it down. (“I already know that!”)

Well, yes. You might.

However, it can take some time to EMBODY the mental awareness that seems so obvious and true. For instance, most of us were socialized to view tough situations from the Daytime Television World-View. We were steeped in the victim/perpetrator/rescuer mindset. So, turning that around will probably take a bit more than just mentally understanding it. We will have to experience it and embody it. (This is why it will be important to include your body in your comeback. Not just your mind.)


Even though we’re placing the idea of a comeback in the context of a potentially traumatic situation, you can also use these same principles for small set-backs. After a week-long illness, an intense travel schedule, or when a problem employee quits suddenly.

So, with these things in mind, we will begin Part 2 of How to Turn a Set Back into a Comeback with a To-Do list of actual steps to take as you begin your comeback.

  • Kathy

    I really enjoy your perspective. I work with David Emerald, author and coach, who has designed an escape from the Drama Triangle. His book is called The Power of TED* (*The Empowerment Dynamic) immediately made a difference for me. I encourage you to visit his website at or go directly to his library of articles at (, or especially the article on “Upgrading Our Operating System” ( Let me know what you think. – kathy

  • rachel

    I love this – especially the point you make about not going back to “who you were”, but “who you are” in light of this situation is so much stronger and more awesome. This really clicked with me in a new way and I think it is so wise, so beautiful.

    And I *love* the blog re-design. Fabulous! I’m not sure if I’ve ever posted here before, Christine, but I’ve been reading for years. I love your blog: it is so encouraging and inspiring. Thanks for your thoughts 🙂 xx

  • Biz

    First of all WOW to the new website! Having just done an upgrade ourselves, I know the work it took to get it here. So kudos to you and your team. Second, how timely was this? Going through a divorce myself, although amicable, it’s still hard to get motivated to move on, as much as you know it has to be done. So once again, thank you.

  • Lilly

    Christine, you’ve made me aware today of an unconscious, crippling behavior that I’ve done almost daily for the past year. I am also in the middle of a divorce. And all throughout, I’ve written my wonderful friend, Lisa, for support. In my writings to her I reference my soon-to-be-ex-husband simply as “AH” (not his actual initials, of course, but a nickname that seemed to fit him). I didn’t see it until reading this post that every time I call him that name, I am re-experiencing my anger and actually victimizing myself! From this day forward I will call him by his real name and free myself to move forward. Thank you!

  • Christine Kane

    Thanks everyone for your great comments! Installment #2 is coming soon – this week I’m with my Uplevel-Your-Success Mastermind all week (very intense) and haven’t gotten the chance to do the final edits on part 2! coming very soon!

  • Gayle

    Thank you, thank you, thank you for this encouraging post. 🙂

  • Sam

    You are so right about repressing our emotions! At one point in me big setback, I NEVER allowed myself time alone., when I might have been able to pay attention to my feelings. I just worked, all the time,so I wouldn;’t have to think. 5 years without a vacation. And you know what? with all that “work”, I ended up losing my business! All I was doing was being there to fill up my head with business. I forgot to market my Day Care Center, and, yep, people stopped coming, So now I’m in another center, but I take time off, I am learning to be alone with myself,(and finding that I’m quite friendly). I work hard on my emotional and spiritual self, and take time off when I want or need to. The “old self” that I left behind is my inner child, and yes, she comes around once in awhile, and I find time to nurture her, but I do not let her bring me down or allow her to be trampled or criticized by poisonous remarks made by siblings or parents. There are some days that are harder than others, but for the most part I like the new me much better than the old self!

  • JB

    “Addicted to reaction” certainly describes me, following the most difficult year of my life (2006). Within an 18-month span, I:
    –had to put down my favorite horse (broken leg, freak accident)
    –drop out of school
    –put grad school plans on hold
    –heal from a bad knee injury that left me disabled for several months WHILE
    –becoming the primary caregiver for not one but two elderly parents who’d recently embarked on the health rollercoaster, ER visits every three weeks, doctor visits several times a month, panic panic panic, which lead to…
    –losing Dad six months in
    –discovering Mother had terminal cancer and 2-4 months to live just three weeks after burying Dad
    –enduring her illness
    –abandoning my home to move in to take care of her
    –losing her
    –handling the very complicated estate nightmare that is only now (three YEARS later) coming to a close

    And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Today, I “woke up” a little when I heard that phrase “addicted to reaction”. The bit about my old self resonated, as well. You’re right; I don’t want to go back. That person was ill-equipped to go for her dreams. This one, today, has endured what she considers to be the worst things that could possibly happen, and survived. This one is ready to live again.

    It’s my sacred writing time now, so I must depart.

  • Bob

    Great food for thought Christine! I will keep this to heart as I can use much of it to effectively deal with my disability from work leading to my job being terminated yesterday.
    Keep up the good work!

  • Kimberly

    I LOVE the debut of the new look!! Absolutely love the new design. So excited, and it is so pleasant! Yay! It goes without saying that the blog post itself is wonderful, per usual.
    – Kimberly, from UYB 2009

  • Christine Kane

    Thanks for all of these great thoughts, comments, encouragement for others, etc! (Sue – i’m so happy to hear the Uplevel Your LIfe Program is helping you. I just love that! It’s literally the same process I live by each day of my life!)

  • Sue Sullivan

    PS. Clarification: By January of this year, I was physically well, but unable to figure out why I felt so overwhelmed by daily tasks, felt trapped, and was not heading in a direction I wanted to go.

  • Sue Sullivan

    I love this, Christine. I especially relate to, “After a Set-Back, We May Often Become ‘Addicted to Reaction.’” In 2008, I supervised the building of our house. I totally got into reactive mode. Every day was a response to what was happening. In 2009, I got ill and wasn’t able to do much but cocoon. By this January I had no idea what was wrong, but I felt very stuck.

    Then I took your Uplevel Your Life course. That has turned me back around to creating my life again. Thanks for sharing such a wonderful tool with us!

  • James

    Great post Christine.

    PS love the site.

  • Regina

    Remember that rubber band trick that goes with this?
    “you must pay the rent!”
    “I can’t pay the rent!”
    “you must pay the rent!”
    “I can’t pay the rent!”
    “I’ll pay the rent!”

    This echoed in my head when you described the Drama Triangle.

  • Kylie

    It took me so long to realize and fully understand that repressing emotions keeps you stuck. And acknowledging the emotions doesn’t mean thinking mindlessly about what happened during your commute. It means sitting down with the full intention of paying attention to your emotions–and then feeling them. I still get surprised at how quickly I can sometimes move on when I give a few minutes of full attention to what I’m feeling.

  • alisha

    wow. i so needed this today. your posts are always so timely for me. thanks.

  • Lu

    Excellent post. Love it and I tweeted about it, too.

  • Eva

    Great reminders in a true “Christine” voice! And congrats on the new site!

  • Anna

    Love your new site! And the post, of course.

  • Laura

    Christine, what you wrote is so powerful because it’s all TRUE! The most wonderful lesson to my setback/comeback story is learning not to strive, not to work so hard to please everyone else. Now I take great care of myself and enjoy as wonderful things are allowed into my life. I still have setbacks, one recent incident involved my criminal-mastermind toy poodle, but I bounce back so quickly these days.

  • Kristin Conroy

    Very wise post. Many people don’t want to hear it because they don’t want those principles to be true, but if your goal is coming out the other side of hardship a stronger, wiser person, you’ve got to face those facts. I know from experience that you have to take responsibility and do the work to move on. Hope your post gives people the nudge and support they need, as well as reminds all of us that we have the power to control our inner world!

  • furiousball

    I am still in the midst of my own comeback. In the span of two years, divorce, children were taken 800 miles away, my father passed away, lost my job last April.

    Now the comeback… met an amazing (and hot!) girlfriend (we will be celebrating 2 years together this june), I now have FULL custody of my children (very rare for a father these days), and my website design business is doing fairly well (still struggles, but the control and freedom are amazing).

  • Kathy Troidle Jackson

    Beautiful post on your new beautiful site! My sister is going through this right now – with flying colors by the way. We grew up in a family where emoting was not allowed and thus we all learned copiing mechanisms of “keeping it all in control.” I pretended to obey the rules but found outlets in drama clubs where emoting got you the part, and continued acting as I snuck out at night after pretending to be asleep, getting around the rules whatever way I could. My sister internalized it all and ended up bulemic and trying to be superwoman, superwife, supermom. Eight years ago she started therapy and was able to uncover who she really was, what she needed vs what everyone else needed of her. She moved out to her own new lovely home a few weeks ago, teaching to get some of her own income coming in, found a home that gives her a place to get even more in tune with her New Self, while doing what she needs to for herself and her kids. She’s an inspiration! And “Jill” already is too.

  • Joy Tanksley

    Oh, and your site looks great! Looks like it got a little makeover, huh? Very nice!

  • Joy Tanksley

    This is a beautiful gift, Christine. I think we can almost always look back at seemingly life-crushing circumstances and see that those were just the antecedent of a brighter, more authentic future. BUT in the moment of pain, that sentiment seems like total crap! That you for providing realistic, practical strategies for moving forward.

    Keep shining your light!

  • elaine

    P.s. sorry just noticed my typo! – 5th line should read ‘ of how I should be and not my own.’ Attention to detail has never been my strong point 🙂

  • elaine

    #2 is also a great reminder for me for similar reasons to Sam. I have been asked about ‘Old Elaine’ and ‘New Elaine’. My partner and people who were in my circle at the time didn’t understand ‘New Elaine’ and missed the old ‘punch bag’ one because she conformed, she was a people pleaser and just settled for everyone elses description of who and what Elaine should be. I followed their operations manual of how I shouls and not my own. Here I had to write my own manual, live it and learn to deal with the criticism from others. I worked through it. You’re so right – even when it was tough (and easier to go back to ‘Old Elaine’) I didn’t want my old self, I wanted to continue to be my new and wiser self. So I made the choice.

    I LOVE the new website by the way!

  • Sam

    Hi Christine,
    Reminder #2 really hit me! I remember when my life was falling apart, and was in therapy. My husband had told a good friend that he couldn’t wait for me to “get back to my old self.” He was warned that I would never be that person again! An he was right! I now realize how much stronger I am, and how much happier. I feel in control of my emotions!

  • Clare

    Thank you for this. I am currently going through a divorce, and things have been very raw. I was beating myself up about how long it is taking me to “get over it”, especially as my husband began another relationship within weeks of me moving out. This is not about him, and I’ll go at my own pace. Many thanks. X

  • Leslie

    I’m printing this out to carry with me for a few months. Your reminders always take me to the next level. Thanks.

  • Emma

    This advice definitely resonates with me. I blog about my post-divorce life, and a lot of these themes have come up in my writing. Now I’m curious to read your to-do list!

  • Heidi

    What a timely reminder. I was literally just thinking about ways to prepare for my own comeback. This was very encouraging this evening.