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Our lives are filled with moments of pain resulting from various setbacks and adversities. When we are in great emotional pain, we temporarily lose our ability to cope. We may feel lost, despairing and powerless. But if we have great resilience, we can recover from our setbacks faster and rise higher as we bounce back.
Reflections – On resilience and coping better with adversity.
Beyond Psychology – The famous sage Osho responds to a question about handling emotional pain.
Online Wisdom – Something highly entertaining on happiness and work from the TED Talks series.
Reflections on resilience
As a child, you used to get frustrated for not getting the things you wanted. You failed many times, got hurt, and may have suffered trauma or abuse. In your youth, you may have been bullied and rejected. As an employee, you may have felt intimidated or humiliated, or even been sacked. Your experiences as a parent may have exposed you to a sense of helplessness and inadequacy. Your relationships have gone through phases of total disconnection, resentment and anger. Perhaps your promising career is suddenly on the rocks. Your body has endured injuries and disease. Your heart has been broken.
Welcome to life.
Well, maybe not your life, but certainly my life. Our bodies and souls are born resilient. Mother Nature has kindly equipped us with the ability to overcome setbacks and keep going. But in our prosperous western society, something has happened to our mental toughness. We have come to the point of needing to teach resilience at school. How do we take this natural skill from children? By over-protecting them. We can’t bear to see them in pain, so we rush to prevent it or to fix it for them. By projecting our own vulnerability onto our children, we end up showing them poor trust in their ability to cope with their life challenges. So, instead of learning to toughen up and rely on their inner resources, children learn to expect help from outside. We, therapists, may also inadvertently help to perpetuate this situation.
So how can you cultivate resilience?
Let me take you back to your first years of life in order to learn the following lessons from your original self:
Focus on the future: Remember that your life is always heading into the future, not the past. So stay tuned to the mysteries and surprises in life, even when your mind insists on predicting the future based on past experience.
Develop a mindset for learning: The egoic/fixed mindset will have you believe it is all about you. But stressful events are not a reflection on who you are but on what you need to learn. In her book Mindset: The New Psychology of Success, Professor Carol Dweck describes her discovery of the “growth mindset”: a way of thinking which helps people turn setbacks into an opportunity to learn and grow.
Keep your heart open: Keeping your heart open to your family and friends is your best asset for quick recovery from setbacks. Openness and trust will guarantee the flow of support and ideas, which are the things you need most in the journey to recovery.
The heart and soul of resilience can be summed up in two core beliefs: “yes, I can cope” and “my future is going to be better”. Your best teacher for these beliefs is… your own life experience! Research shows us that people who have dealt with adversity are not more miserable, but more resilient and self-confident. When you look back on your life you will remember times when you felt total despair, but just when you thought all doors were closed, another door opened for you.
I will leave you with a little exercise. Reflect for a moment on one of the most stressful events in your life. Now consider the impact this left on you, and ask yourself how true the following statements are.
- I established a new path for my life.
- I am more confident that I can cope with difficult situations.
- I changed my priorities.
- New opportunities became available to me.
- I have more compassion for others.
- I discovered that I’m stronger than I thought I was.
- I have a greater sense of closeness with others.
- I have gained a different perspective on life.
The more you answered yes, the more you have demonstrated resilience.
From Osho’s The Transmission of the Lamp, Talk #6
‘I feel I’m always on a rollercoaster of feelings. How to get off it? I’ve tried just watching them all but as soon as one has gone, up comes something else!’
Live each emotion that you feel. Hateful, ugly, unworthy – whatever it is, actually be in it. First give the emotions a chance to come totally up into the conscious. Right now, by your effort of watchfulness you are repressing them in the unconscious. Then you get involved in your day-to-day work and you force them back again. That is not the way to get rid of them. Let them come out; live them, suffer them. It will be difficult and tedious but immensely rewarding. Once you have lived them, suffered them and accepted them — that this is you, that you have not made yourself in this way so you need not condemn yourself, that this is the way you have found yourself… Once they are lived consciously, without any repression, you will be surprised that they are disappearing on their own. Their force on you is becoming less; their grip on your neck is no longer that tight. And when they are going away there may be a time when you can start watching.
Once everything comes into the conscious mind it disperses, and when only the shadow is there, that is the time to become aware. Right now it will create schizophrenia; then it will create enlightenment.
Shawn Achor is a Positive Psychology expert, the author of The Happiness Advantage, and the founder of GoodThinkInc. In this 12-minute TED Talk, he discusses the connection between happiness and productivity at work.
Watch it here >>
‘If we study what is merely average, we will remain merely average.’ – Shawn Achor
About the author:
Guy (Hagai) Avisar is a psychologist with more than 30 years of experience helping people with relationship issues