I am writing about emotional resilience in part because it is something I want, and need to learn about myself. The last nine months have been particularly difficult for most of us, and my life is no exception. We have all had to deal with the pandemic, which has been painful in itself, and many of us have had to deal with personal challenges and tragedies in addition to the pandemic. What is it that makes some people better able to cope with disappointment, loss, and suffering than others? I suspect the first thing is that they don't take it personally. Why me? For sure this is something I can work on. I want to be clear that coping with difficult times and challenges, is not about denial or emotional repression. We don't need all of the stress in our bodies that comes from emotional denial and lying to ourselves.Some people pretend to themselves, and to others that they don't experience a variety emotions, including grief, fear, and anxiety, however, this is only masking an untruth and ultimately leads to bigger and more serious problems. Unfortunately they are often able to convince others that they, "have it together", when in fact they may be out of touch with reality and their own bodies. We can't fix something if we don't know it exists, and we can't fix something if we don't know it is broken. One of my wise professors in graduate school once told me that if we don't deal with loss, we are only creating more loss. So I suspect another thing that is important is to be accepting of our own experience, and being accepting of ourselves in spite of the experience that may be uncomfortable or painful. I remember the words of the pastor of my church (another person of great wisdom), saying to me after my late wife passed away. "Don, you know as well as anyone else, that when it comes to grief you can't go around it, you have to go through it", I don't know what your particular situation or challenge is, however, there is likely to be grief involved on some level. Noticing that we are not alone in our suffering is always important. As I continue to mention, self compassion and making a consistent effort to be kind to ourselves can be invaluable. Dr. Gregg Steinberg who is a researcher on emotional resilience says, that he believes that tragedy is often a gift that forces us to find our purpose in life. This can be a bit of a hard pill to swallow, however, it is consistent with Dr. Victor Frankyl's belief that we can deal with suffering better if we can find meaning in that suffering. (A reminder that Dr. Frankyl, lost his entire family in the concentration camps in Germany during world war 11) Most of us are pretty consistent at trying to fight against our emotions and deny them. (We are often at war with ourselves) I know that this is absolutely the truth for me. Although I encourage clients to be with themselves emotionally, and focus on what they need to do for themselves, I myself resist, and don't like feeling unpleasant emotions. This is likely the source of most of our stress and anxieties. (Many psychologist believe that this denial is the source of neurosis) I worked on a psychiatric unit when I was younger, my boss would consistently say that what people are most afraid of are their own feelings. I suspect that is the truth. I suspect that for me that is the truth, in addition to my fear of being disabled and being alone. But, what if we could develop more emotional strength and flexibility, so to better deal with life's never ending challenges. What if we became more emotionally flexible, so that when we get knocked down we can get up just a little more easily. If we can be honest about our emotions, connect meaningfully with others, and find some sense of purpose in our disappointment, loss, or heartbreak, we are in a better place. If we add onto that, developing some sense of appreciation for life through the daily practicing appreciation, then we are really moving along, and better yet if we consistently ask ourselves what we have the power to control. Surrendering to what we can't control is just really tough, "God", I have so much work to do! God grant us serenity. Sounds like a prayer doesn't it? Yea, that too! Prayer another great practice!
In Search of Emotional Resilience
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