You may have more than you realize.
By Judith E. Lipson, M.A., LPC
Do you know people who have faced repeated adversity yet live a happy, successful life? People who come to mind include Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel, Oprah (poverty and abuse) and child abuse survivor Dave Pelzer (author of A Child Called It). Resiliency is an individual’s ability to cope with stress and adversity by bouncing back. Though often assumed to be a magic trait that you have or you don’t, it is now recognized as something that can be developed.
The following are appropriate for you or your children:
- Develop your decision-making skills, assertiveness, independence, impulse control, and problem solving.
- Have a sense of humor. Laugh in the face of adversity by enjoying funny jokes and movies.
- Improve your confidence by acknowledging what you are good at and valuing your self-worth.
- Increase your coping resources such as nutrition, exercise and meditation to reduce stress as well as increase resilience.
- Share your troubles with friends and professionals for solutions, resources and perspective.
- Be grateful for what you do have and appreciate the simple things in life.
- Take action, no matter how small.
- Be of service to others. Happiness and well-being are enhanced when you engage in an act of kindness.
Recognize that most of life’s hardships are temporary. When you can’t change something outside yourself, even a life-changing event can be viewed differently by changing your internal response to the event.
Avoid catastrophizing. See situations for what they are. Byron Katie, founder of The Work, which is a method of self-inquiry, guides people through these four questions to confront their beliefs:
1) Is it true?
2) Can you absolutely know that it’s true?
3) How do you react, what happens, when you believe that thought?
4) Who would you be without the thought?
Resiliency allows you to interact with the environment that is present. Some family members try to protect loved ones from all discomfort and hardship, but the goal is to learn to reduce your unproductive responses while developing tolerance for what remains.
Allow the uncomfortable emotions to be present with your other feelings. Don’t allow the “negative” emotion to overwhelm you into believing that it is the only one present. For instance, you can say, “I’m sad about this and I’m grateful for that.”
Find your courage to be aware of and feel the emotion that you are avoiding. Eckhart Tolle, author of A New Earth, says to look at the pain as an opportunity to learn and problem solve. Tolle explains the tendency to run away from uncomfortable feelings; he encourages people to develop the habit of moving toward the pain. You probably don’t realize that the process of running from your pain – avoidance, alcohol, excessive work, computer games, or OCD rituals – actually produces more problems than remaining still to look at what you are avoiding. These negative behaviors never really work and typically create their own harmful effects. The next time you have a desire to begin an avoidant behavior, take a breath and allow yourself to see what you nearly avoided. When you look at it for what it really is, it’s not nearly as frightening as what you thought and your accomplishment will feel great.
Learn to go with the flow. I love the analogy of water flowing in a stream. When water encounters a rock, it doesn’t bang against it repeatedly screaming, “Why are you always in my way?” Instead, water flows around the rock.
Resilient people consider that things happen for a reason; they expect to bounce back and realize that they can often influence outcome. Looking at life from a greater perspective is like looking at a tapestry. The back of that tapestry has knots and threads which represent the life that you live day to day. When looking at the front of the tapestry you can see the whole, the greater perspective.
It was once believed that resiliency was something you had to be born with, that happiness came from good luck, and those individuals who lived through challenging circumstances and events were destined for additional life drama and a life seen through pessimistic eyes. Not true! Don’t focus on your risk factors; resiliency is based on your ability to bounce back. Develop yours now and live life and your dreams with optimism.
Judy Lipson is a Licensed Professional Counselor and educational strategist in West Bloomfield. She helps clients of all ages who have learning difficulties; work or school related anxiety; ADHD; Asperger’s Syndrome or Autism Spectrum Disorders; and those who wish to Remember and Become Who You Really Are. Contact Judy at 248.568.8665 and firstname.lastname@example.org, and visit www. SpiralWisdom.net for more information.