The Oxford English Dictionary defines resilience as "the ability of people or things to recover or bounce back quickly after something unpleasant, such as shock, injury, etc."
This definition would suggest that we bounce back to a previous state, to some sort of 'norm'. Is that really true?
"Life's reality is that we cannot bounce back. We cannot bounce back because we cannot go back in time to the people we used to be. The parent who loses a child never bounces back. The nineteen-year-old who sails for war is gone forever, even if he returns. You know that there is no bouncing back. There is only moving through."
Eric Greitens "Resilience: Hard-won Wisdom for Living a Better Life"
After challenging experiences we change, we don't stay the same. It's almost like we are being pushed out of our comfort zone, exposed, naked. At first, it's always a shock to our system, to our deeply rooted beliefs. After that, we have a choice.
I realise that it may sound like a completely alien concept at the moment. But bear with me…
"Everything can be taken from a man but one thing; the last of the human freedoms - to choose one's attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one's own way."
Viktor Frankl, "Man's Search for Meaning"
Viktor Frankl was an Austrian neurologist, psychiatrist and Holocaust survivor. After his experience in the Nazi concentration camps, he developed his theory and approach (logotherapy - a form of existential psychotherapy). He found that through a search for meaning and purpose in life that individuals can endure hardship and suffering.
I've witnessed this a lot, especially when working with grief and chronic or terminal illness. Profound loss is always a shock. Even if intellectually we are prepared for it, rarely our emotional reaction is what we've imagined. It's overwhelming, and it seems to come out of the blue. However, this state of shock changes, and here we witness a whole range of coping skills. That indicates that in fact, there is a choice. It may not be readily available for someone who always lived in their comfort zone or a protective bubble. It may be too much to handle for people who went through traumatic experiences that have never been addressed. But there is a whole range of reactions to choose from and the best moment to start expanding this choice is right now.
If you are going through a difficult time or crisis; know that it can change, as that is the nature of life. Everyone has different needs according to the moment they are going through. If you don't feel ready to face the challenging situation right away, you may need some support, kind, listening ear or heal old wounds before you move through this challenge. It may take time, but it's possible. Stay hopeful, be patient and kind to yourself. I believe in your strength.
During this time, with coronavirus spreading around the world loss takes many different shapes. For some people, it's a loss of loved ones or their health. For others, it's affecting their financial security, job, essential resources. It may be as well a sense of losing freedom and hopes for the future. Reflect on it. How do you experience this situation in your life? Face this loss now, because if suppressed, it may cause more damage in your life long term.
"Failure to work through any of the various emotions associated with loss can result in chronic stickiness in any of its components. Thus, it can result in depression and prolonged states of denial."
David R. Hawkins, "Letting Go”
Resilience isn't a personality trait; it's something that anyone can take steps to achieve.
I've created a little workbook to help you work through anything that comes up for you from this reflection. Don't delay it, use adversity as an opportunity to bring consciousness to the change you might be going through. That is your choice.
You can download the free workbook below.
In this workbook, I am sharing some of the techniques that my clients have incorporated into their daily lives - coping skills and self-care routines.