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A close-up of a newly opened delphinium flower (Summer 2013).

Monday, May 16, 2011

Acquiring Resilience

Whatever it is, if it doesn’t make you happy, walk away, give it away to someone else who wants it. Let it be their next dream; let it flee from you. Then you have room to grow, to allow magnificent things to fill the vacuum of those seemingly empty places. When you hold onto yesterday, when you hold onto dead and dying adventures, you have no room in your box for greatness.

~Author Unknown

One of the ways to develop resilience is to embrace change. Realize then that your situation is not carved in stone. You have the power to change your life if your situation contributes to your unhappiness and suffering. 

I know of some people who stay in a loveless marriage because of their children. I have unhappy friends who are stuck in their job because they need to have an income to support their family. I know of some women who are mistreated by their husband but don't know where to to go or what to do, so they stay.

Stagnation will get you nowhere. The change that comes with developing your resilience will propel you towards a new direction, to an undiscovered greatness, and to a strength you thought you never had. 

Acquiring resilience would depend on the following self-efficacious behaviors:

Can you pick yourself up? To develop resilience, you must be able to wither life's problems and traumas by picking yourself up, getting on with your life, and getting the resources you need to soothe yourself. This inevitably requires change, from being in a dormant state to a flourishing one. To flourish means choosing positive emotions over negative ones, to be engaged in some worthwhile pursuits  rather than be stagnant, and to live a life of purpose as opposed to being aimless (see Martin Seligman, 2011).

Can you solve your problems? To acquire resilience means you believe that all problems have a solution, that you have the ability to find the answers, and that you can free your self from  problems that inhibit you from following your dream. You are realistic enough to know that life will always have problems yet you have the inner confidence that because you have solve previous problems, you are better equipped to solve new ones. In due time, you would have gained the wisdom to navigate life's problems without fear and apprehension.

Are you raised in a supportive environment? Resilience involves being raised in an environment where people believe in you, where people see the best in you, and where you are allowed to learn from your mistakes. You need role models from family, friends, and relatives who demonstrated how they pulled themselves together in times of crises and difficulties. You need people in your environment who modeled what it is to have positive attitude despite hardships (see Alicia Salzer, 2011).

What is your coping style? Acquiring resilience means being able to respond fittingly to events that you have no control of. Salzer describes four emotional coping styles and I will summarize them below: 

  1. The Mouse: The coping style of the mouse is to ruminate and spiral into negativity. You could feel exhausted, overwhelmed, hopeless, powerless, in need of rescuing, or in need of escape.
  2. The Bull: The coping style of the bull is best described as anger. In your world, there is a right and wrong, a way things should be done, and you harbor past slights and fantasize about revenge.

  3. The Bee: The coping style of the bee is that of engaging in a whirlwind of activities but you are not particularly aware of how you are feeling beneath the surface. You get more than in a day than most people do in a week and you are often highly accomplished.

  4. The Wolf: The coping style of the wolf is staying calm, cool, and in control. You rarely lose your temper and you don't burst into spontaneous tears. Past experience taught you that the only person you can count on is yourself.

Can you try these? If you think your coping style does not allow you to be resilient, you can try the following alternative coping style to stage your own rescue intervention, according to Salzer:

  • Borrowing the tools of your heroes: You can use the example of your heroes (or other people you admire) to help you explore alternative ways of responding and coping with challenges. 

  • Assume a character you want to be: Choose a character who has a better coping style than your own and go to the real world and play out this character as if cameras are rolling. Behaving like your character may set you in a new direction emotionally, one that will help you better able to cope.

Becoming more resilient involves change, a movement from one situation to, hopefully, a better one. You would need to harness your ability to stand up if you fall, brush yourself up, solve your problems, be surrounded with supportive people, improve your coping style, and most importantly, to believe in yourself.


I hope this article will help you thrive and flourish to become more resilient.

As usual, please feel free to leave your comments below.

Have a good week, my dear readers!

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