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Revisiting resilience

Living as we do in these times of high anxiety and with not much evidence of real improvement to that situation, it seems timely to revisit the word resilience.  This is a word that entered popular vernacular a few years ago and a word that is currently quite vigorously postulated as the answer to issues surrounding mental health.  Perhaps the gaining of resilience may be part of that solution – except for a couple of important questions.  Just how is the gift of resilience gained?  And how can individuals, or society in general actually foster resilience?

For resilience is not one single commodity.  The getting of resilience, like wisdom, comes from living, observing and learning … definitely not something to be purchased in a packet from Chemist Warehouse and taken as a daily remedy.

To be resilient is to be able to respond from a place of personal strength in the face of adversity.  The challenges of life are many and plans and needs can change, even sometimes from moment to moment.  So the power of resilience begins with one simple phrase: be responsive, not reactive. Reactivity is useful in emergencies. But uncontrolled reactivity is a clear indication of lack of resilience.  Witness reactivity in everyday life:  impatience, irritability, bullying, aggression and simmering rage.  Such reactions are perhaps most visible on our roads and further, within belligerent demonstrations, domestic violence, on the sports field or in public places and it goes without saying, in racial or terror induced confrontations and their tragic outcomes.

Self control and self respect are closely related to resilience and so indeed is self-discipline – an unpopular word these days – yet without discipline life can quickly slip into non-resilient chaos.

As products of the parents, siblings, relatives, teachers and mentors who impressed early life, much will have been learned.  But perhaps a true recognition of the real self is absentMaybe there is a lack of personal confidence which in turn creates feelings of fear?  Maybe jealousy, resentment and anger are constant emotional companions?  Maybe the fear of failure is far too present? Perhaps loss in its many forms and its accompanying grief has coloured life to a point of helpless overwhelm?  Or at times of stress or illness or anxiety there is no ability to recover because there is simply no energy in reserve.  And of course self-talk, most likely sprung from the child-self, can be so negative that the adult self-image is tainted which in turn, can damage respect for others.  These reactions and more may need some amendment if resilience is to be gained.

Since the gift of resilience means the ability to accept and to persevere despite the odds, that means building mental as well as physical stamina.  A resilient person demonstrates calm control, emotional elasticity and a level of orderliness.  These qualities can be gained through a range of mind strengthening skills such as the practice of meditation.   Sound mentoring is also advisable to help nurture positive attitudes of hope, gratitude and humour, as well as the development of a happy work-life balance.   Like personalised building blocks, these ideas and more assist the maturing process until one day, suddenly the life-raft of resilience truly becomes apparent!

Pauline McKinnon (c)
July, Melbourne 2017