Are You a Rebounder or a Wallower?

by Andy Wood on October 4, 2013

in Books and Music

Rebounders-Cover-300x456I’m fascinated by people that Rick Newman calls “Rebounders.”   Maybe that’s because about once every four years, on average, I find myself punched in the gut by some sort of setback or in-my-face adversity. Sometimes they’re of my own super-talented making. At other times the setbacks come in the form of pain dished out by others, significant grief situations, or life circumstances that are beyond anyone’s immediate control.

To be clear, I’m not referring to annoyances like the allergy attack I endured this morning or the fender benders I’ve lost count of over the years. When I say setback, I mean that somewhere I’ve been body-slammed and whatever I thought progress was has come to a complete halt.

That’s why I’ve been fascinated by Newman’s book Rebounders: How Winners Pivot from Setback to SuccessRick is an award-winning journalist and has spent considerable time researching both the science and the stories of those who have suffered greatly, yet come back powerfully.

Along the way, Rick observed two kinds of people – Rebounders and Wallowers. Rebounders are those who have the skills to bounce back from adversity.  Wallowers “tend to be the people who get stuck… and don’t understand why and who remain convinced that their tribulations are somebody else’s fault.”

In setting the table for the stories he tells, Newman suggests four quick ways you can tell if you’re a Rebounder or a Wallower. I’d like to add a fifth from a spiritual perspective.  Oh… and if you don’t mind bracing for bad news, Rick says there’s a 67% chance you’re a Wallower. But the good news is that you have the power to change that.

So how ‘bout it? Are you a Rebounder or a Wallower?  Here’s where to look for answers:

1.  Whose job is it to solve your problems?

Rebounders see problems from the angle of their own experience. They’ve been there, done that, and recognize that problems are made for solving.  So when something goes wrong, they tend to react with calm determination, and even a sense of humor.

On the other hand, Wallowers aren’t used to solving their own problems, so they get rattled when something goes wrong, even something small. Wallowers turn to their Mama, their nanny (state),  or forces beyond their control to fix things. They assume that their emergency is somebody else’s problem.

Want to see a professional Wallower in the Bible? Check this out:

When Jesus saw him lying there and knew that he had already been there a long time, he said to him, “Do you want to be healed?” The sick man answered him, “Sir, I have no one to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up, and while I am going another steps down before me.”

In answer to a straightforward question, this lame man shifts the focus to the excuse he has made for 38 years.  “Nobody will help me,” he says.

2.  What do you do with the blame for the problem?

Rebounders would rather solve problems than complain about them or blame somebody else.

Wallowers complain or get huffy instead of simply trying to fix things. They spend a lot of time trying to get to the bottom of the issue and figuring out who to blame for a problem, usually absolving themselves.

3.  Who questions your judgment?

Rebounders treat small challenges just as they would big ones. They sweat the details and take care to get it right, to the point that they don’t blindly trust their own assumptions or judgment.

Wallowers, on the other hand, rarely question their own judgment and tend to overestimate their own abilities. So when something goes wrong, the very idea that they could be to blame is strange and baffling to them.

4.  What happens to your mistakes?

Rebounders analyze their mistakes and learn from them. They also change their mind from time to time, when new information turns out to be better than old information.

Wallowers find it difficult to analyze their own mistakes; they often repeat them instead of improving upon them. What time they aren’t spending blaming someone else, they spend a lot of time and energy shaming themselves. But never with a solution in mind.

5.  Where is God in all this?

Rebounders have enough confidence in God to see that He is acting purposefully, even when His hand is untraceable.  Like Joseph, they can see the “goodness of God in the land of the living” and hold on to His faithfulness, even when they don’t always know what He is going.

Wallowers get lost in the immediate distress, and often assume that they’re the ones who have to fix things. The have a very difficult time seeing the connection between their painful circumstances and the sovereign work of God in their lives.


There is much more to be gained from the book, but this is a great starting point. Where do you see yourself on this spectrum? Hard Core Rebounder?  “Innocent” Wallower? Whatever you are doing right now with the setbcks in your life, you are laying a foundation for future growth… or future disappointment.

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Martha Orlando October 4, 2013 at 1:14 pm

Rebounder reporting for duty! 🙂
Love the post, Andy!
Martha Orlando´s last blog post ..We Walk by Faith

Karen Moon October 6, 2013 at 7:35 am

Hello Andy. Definitely I am a rebounder … enjoying your posts as always!

Hoping to get some feedback and traffic for mine …

Karen Moon´s last blog post ..Happiness Sits On My Shoulder

Maureen Soltis October 6, 2013 at 8:26 pm

Historically, I have been a rebounder for sure but I have to admit that my last experience caught me off-guard and sent me into somewhat of a “wallower” mode. We make our own choices but I truly believe God takes the painful ones and turns them into “character builders” that become part of the process of preparation for our next role. It is hard to be thankful while you are going through it but it does have a lasting impact on your ability to both learn and empathize.

Andy Wood October 7, 2013 at 12:38 am

@Karen – great post on worry/happiness. Thanks for your encouragement.

@Maureen – It certainly is hard to be thankful in the middle of the mayhem! But one the things I continue to learn about Rebounding is that each expression of it has a life of its own – sometimes it’s quick, sometimes painfully slow. I am also learning that it’s more important to note where you are facing than how far along you have come. That will take care of itself.

Lynn Litschke October 9, 2013 at 10:27 pm

Hi Andy – I appreciate this differentiation between wallowers and rebounders. I notice in my own life that I feel the “tug” of the wallow at times, especially when I feel slighted or hurt. It seems there is that moment of choice to default to wallowing or move into the rebound. In general now I choose rebound. If I choose to wallow for a while, God eventually taps me on the shoulder and reminds me that there is work to do (smile). I’m thinking about starting a new 12-step group for Wallowers Anonymous… any thoughts? Lynn

Andy Wood October 9, 2013 at 11:34 pm


Hi, I’m Andy and I’m a gratefully recovering Wallower.

Hi Andy!

Love it. You could have your meetings in a mud pit.

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