Strengthen Resiliency: Avoid Emotional Icebergs

The human mind is an intricate web of emotions, some positive and some negative. While the majority of our actions are driven by logic, there are times when emotion runs amok and causes us to act irrationally-leading to a phenomenon known as emotional or behavioral icebergs

The “art of manliness resilience” is a book that teaches men how to avoid emotional icebergs. The author, Jack Donovan, also suggests ways to make yourself stronger as well as others.

Iceberg in ocean.

This series of articles is now available as a professionally designed, distraction-free ebook that you can read at your leisure while offline. To purchase, go to this link. 

Have you ever responded to anything with a level of emotion that seemed out of proportion to the circumstances? Even if your rational mind tells you that it’s not a huge problem, you’re still angry/hurt/depressed/anxious, and you can’t seem to turn off the feeling.

These kind of “overreactions” might leave us feeling irritated. They sabotage our relationships and prevent us from moving forward in life. They not only cause us to focus on things longer than we should, but they also cause us to make bad judgments when we are in this emotional state. We can’t respond resiliently to our difficulties if we have incongruent responses.

So, what’s causing these atypical reactions? A collision with an iceberg, to be specific, an iceberg belief. Water is flowing into your hull, but from above the deck, you have no idea what’s going on. All you can think of is how quickly you’re sinking.

What Does It Mean to Have an Iceberg Belief?

This sense of a mismatched stimulus/reaction is “a indication you are being impacted by an underlying belief-a strongly held idea about how the world ought to work and how you believe you ought to behave within that environment,” according to the authors of The Resilience Factor. These underlying beliefs—or icebergs, as we call them—are normally outside of our awareness, far under the surface of our consciousness.”

As a result, iceberg beliefs are entrenched and frozen worldviews that we carry deep inside us. The following are some instances of iceberg beliefs offered by Drs. Reivich and Shatte:

“I should be able to do everything I set my mind to.” “At all times, they must respect me.” “Women should be supportive and compassionate.” “A guy doesn’t exhibit his feelings.” “Failure is a symptom of immaturity.” “I must never surrender.” “Only weak individuals are incapable of resolving their own issues.”

Here are a few more ideas I had:

“I never want to follow in my father’s footsteps.” “Being loved is the most essential thing.” “Whatever they do, men are always capable.” “A guy never abandons a project he has begun.”

Iceberg Scenarios Examples

Let’s look at some hypothetical circumstances to see how these icebergs could effect you in real life:

“People must always respect me,” Dan’s iceberg conviction is. Someone cuts him off on his way to work. He spends the remainder of the drive shouting and flashing his high lights at the person.

“Manliness may be assessed by how excellent you are with the women,” Jeff believes. He approaches a beautiful lady, but she ignores him completely. James is terribly upset, and he spends the rest of the week repeating the incident, furious and despondent.


“A man never stops what he begins,” Joe’s iceberg philosophy goes. One night, his son Jeremy approaches him and informs him that he is leaving the hockey team since he no longer enjoys it. Joe gets upset, telling his son that he’s a loser for giving up and that he’ll never amount to anything.

Where Do Icebergs Originate?

Almost of iceberg beliefs can be linked back to your upbringing. “Men don’t display emotion,” may be one of your icebergs if your father was a stern man. One of your iceberg beliefs, if your mother was Miss Manners, would be: “People who are unpleasant are not worth knowing.”

Your Relationships Are Like Icebergs

Our relationships may be sunk by icebergs. This is especially true since we frequently have iceberg gender roles views, even if we aren’t aware of them. Have you ever lost a game to a lady you were competing against? Perhaps you felt even worse about it than you would if you’d been beaten by a male. You realize it’s silly to feel that way, but it’s the result of an ingrained assumption about how these meetings should go down.

We all have basic views about how a man and a woman should behave, and when these beliefs are broken, we might have a visceral response that we don’t comprehend.

Let’s pretend you recently finished a home improvement job. Maybe you’re in control of your relationship’s money. And you make a mistake, even if it’s little. Your wife notices the error and attempts to act as if nothing is wrong, but her displeasure is visible on her face. You may be very enraged, defensive, or sulky and embarrassed. It shouldn’t have been a huge problem, but your underlying assumption was that guys always knew what they were doing, and as a result, you’re feeling a lot worse than you should. And you’re probably taking it out on your wife, getting irritated and defensive.

It’s worth noting that this type of thing may operate both ways. When you don’t live up to one of her icebergs beliefs, the lady in your life may feel quite unhappy. Many women have icebergs views about males being strong and capable in many areas. When you fail at anything or seem weak to them in any way, it might trigger a visceral response in them. My wife, for example, believes that the male should be in charge of negotiating things and should be fantastic at it. Unfortunately, I’m not one of them. And when I fail to get a good deal for us, she becomes enraged.

Icebergs and their Consequences

“Iceberg beliefs lead you to have an overabundance of certain emotions while having an underabundance of others. Emotionally resilient individuals experience all emotions…but only at the right moment and at the right degree. People who are less resilient are more likely to get caught in one feeling, which limits their capacity to react successfully to hardship.” –The Factor of Resilience


Iceberg beliefs, according to Drs. Reivich and Shatte, may lead to four problems:

1. Iceberg beliefs may surface at inopportune moments, resulting in out-of-control emotions and responses. 2. Their activation may result in emotions and actions that are out of proportion to the circumstance, even if they are not severe. 3. Iceberg beliefs may become too rigid, causing you to repeat the same emotional patterns over and over again. 4. Iceberg ideas that contradict one other might make it difficult to make a conclusion.

The first three points are self-evident, but let’s look at number four. We might have conflicting iceberg ideas that cause us to be perplexed and make decision-making tough. You can have two similar beliefs: “A guy should pursue his passion in life at all times.” “A guy takes care of his family,” and “A man takes care of his family.” Your employer summons you to his office and offers you a promotion. You already know you’ll despise the work, but it’ll pay a lot more to feed your family. When these icebergs collide, you may get immobilized and worried.

It’s crucial to remember that icebergs aren’t always evil or nice; they may be both. “The most essential thing in life is integrity,” is certainly a good iceberg. “I will never quit at anything,” has some obvious benefits for your life, but if you’re not cautious, it might be carried too far. The idea that “people cannot be trusted” is mostly negative. As a result, you must do a cost-benefit analysis to choose which icebergs you want to maintain and make work for you, as well as those you want to melt away.

Why Is It So Difficult to Melt Your Icebergs?

You could think, “Well, that’s nice to know,” and that you’ll just snap out of your negative icebergs and melt them away. But that’s not simple, since we’re all prone to confirmation bias, or the Velcro/Teflon Effect, as RF puts it. You tend to filter out and disregard everything that doesn’t support your iceberg views while homing in on anything that does as you go about your day.

“All women are untrustworthy and deceptive,” Gary thinks. Sarah informs him at the outset of their relationship that she isn’t searching for a committed relationship. After a few weeks, Gary tells Sarah that he wants to take things more seriously, and she tells him that they shouldn’t see one other since it’s not what she wants. Gary would pounce on Sarah’s snub, forgetting what she told him at the start of their relationship, and say that women are all liars, and that all Sarah wanted was for him to take her out and pay for her meals. To subconsciously reaffirm his judgment, he may seek out women who are untrustworthy and manipulative. The mind is a complex beast.

Identifying Your Icebergs to Strengthen Your Resilience

Man standing on nest ship and looking with binoculars.

As a result, it’s difficult to just turn off your iceberg beliefs. However, detecting them before impact may prevent you from colliding with them. You may chart a smoother route for yourself by standing in your crow’s nest and being alert. The more you become aware of your icebergs, the more you’ll be able to comprehend why you react the way you do, and the more power you’ll have to respond effectively and resiliently to situations.


Consider the last time you thought your response was out of proportion to the incident that provoked it to begin detecting your icebergs. Then, to get to the bottom of why you felt the way you did, start asking yourself some questions. It’s best to undertake this activity in a notebook or with someone you can trust completely.

To determine out which iceberg you struck, the Resilience Factor suggests asking the following “what” questions (why inquiries tend to make you defensive):

So, what does it imply for me? What portion of it irritates me the most? What portion of it bothers me the most? What does this say about my character? So, what’s the big deal about that?

Use as many questions as you like, in whatever sequence you choose.

“You know, you seem to be drinking a lot after work lately,” Jason’s wife Amanda could comment one night. “Perhaps you might make some cuts.” Jason lashes out at her, ranting about how she’s a controlling knucklehead who doesn’t care how much he drinks. James is taken aback by his response and proceeds to go through what occurred as follows:

Question: So Amanda advised you to cut down on your drinking, what’s the harm in that? Jason: I’m an adult who understands how much booze he can consume. I don’t want her to be observing what I’m doing. What is it about her seeing what you’re doing that irritates you so much? Jason: I get the impression she doesn’t trust me and doesn’t believe I’m in charge. What’s the big deal about her not believing you’re in charge? Jason: I got the impression she was implying that I was on the verge of becoming an alcoholic. Question: What is it about it that bothers you so much? Jason: Because my father was a drunkard, and I’m not like him. I’m not the same as him.

As a result, Jason understood that his wife’s remark had made him defensive because it alluded to his fear of, and devotion to, growing up to be like his father.

You’ll initially come up with more visceral explanations for why you’re feeling this way when you undertake this activity. To get to the bottom of things and find your iceberg, you’ll have to keep digging.

So stop changing the Titanic’s deck chairs and start directing a path toward greater resilience.

Dr. Karen Reivich and Dr. Andrew Shatte’s book The Resilience Factor

Part I – An Introduction to Building Your Resilience Avoiding Learned Helplessness and Changing Your Explanatory Style: Part II of Building Your Resiliency Part III – Taking Control of Your Life – Increasing Your Resilience Part IV of Building Your Resilience – There’s an Iceberg Ahead! Part V: Recognizing and Using Your Signature Strengths – Increasing Your Resilience Building Your Resilience: Part VI – Stop Catastrophizing Building Your Resilience: Part VII – Help Your Children Build Their Resilience



Watch This Video-

The “how do icebergs form” is a question that has been asked for years. The answer to the question is simple, they form when two masses of ice collide and break off from each other. This process can be used as an analogy to describe how people react when they are emotionally overwhelmed.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the 5 skills of resilience?

A: Resilience, is the ability to remain calm or unemotional under difficult circumstances. It can also refer to a particular someones capacity for enduring physical pain and trauma.

What are the 7 resilience skills?


What is emotionally resilient?

A: Emotionally resilient is a term that is typically used to describe people with the ability of maintaining their mental health and overall feelings in spite of experiencing intense emotions.

Related Tags

  • emotional resilience
  • what are emotions
  • icebergs