Recently I read that believing life will be fair because you are a good person is like believing the bull won’t charge at you because you are a vegetarian. Life can be challenging whether you are a good person or not. You can do the right things or keep a positive attitude but that does not mean that life will never knock you on your ass.
There has been a lot written in recent years about resilience. Institutes have been set up and studies have been conducted. But, what is resilience really? The dictionary defines resilience as the ability to spring back into shape. From a personal perspective, it is our capacity to recover quickly from difficulties.
Managing our way through difficult situations and stressors can lead to new knowledge about situations and strengthen our confidence in our ability to overcome obstacles. In fact, continuing to overcome life’s challenges can lead to trusting our self. We may realize that we have the ability to overcome, endure, and maybe even become stronger because of the adversity we have faced. Of course you will never know if you are a resilient person unless you have gone through at least one difficult situation.
Becoming a resilient person means challenging how we interpret the events that happen in our life. Do we label them as traumatic or do we see them as an opportunity to learn and grow. This is key, according to George Bonanno, clinical psychologist at Columbia University. His work shows that events are not traumatic in and of themselves. Rather, it is our reaction to an event that determines whether or not they are traumatic. This is why children growing up in the same set of circumstances may have very different reactions. It is the interpretation of event(s) that dictate how the individual will move through any given situation.
Reactions to events can be internal or external depending on how we see the situation and how we feel about our self. For example, some people will think: this situation is happening to me because I am not a good person. Others will think: this situation is the result of something happening in my environment, how will I overcome it.
The time to strengthen our resilience is during calm times in our life. We do this by talking about how we feel, not just what we think. That includes the messy stuff: grief, anger, loneliness. It means taking more responsibility for our self and our life by problem-solving our challenges as they come up and adapting quickly. It means attending to our significant relationships in our life by sharing love, being kind, being present and empathetic.
Our best hope for resilience is to strengthen our support system all the time. One way is to remember the times in your life when you have overcome adversity and became stronger having gone through the experience. Each time life throws a curve ball, we have the opportunity to challenge our assumptions. The strength of the human spirit comes from tackling those assumptions and moving through them by creating a path you never would have had the opportunity to travel otherwise.
“When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves.” Viktor Frankl – Man’s Search for Meaning