Humans Don’t Bounce!
Yet this is what I find all the time with my research in resilience. ‘How to Guides’ on building, getting or striving for resilience. Such things as; 10 Things to Master and Become Resilient – What the Super Survivors Can Teach us About Resilience (Through Darkness into Daylight http://tinyurl.com/ljbnw8t), or 7 Secrets of Resilience (Educational Leadership http://tinyurl.com/mffd22a); and 18 Things Mentally Strong People Do (Genius Quotes)!
Last time I spoke to somebody, who was in a crisis, they would not have benefited from an easy, 7 or 10 step strategy to get them going again.
Resilience isn’t some 7 step strategy while we are in the throngs of a gripping anxiety attack. It isn’t some 10 factor guide while we are in the dark depths of depression and not even helpful when we are crying buckets of tears over a gravesite because we’ve lost our teenage son to suicide!
All of these simple ‘strategies’ have one thing in common. The underlying message is ‘bounce back’! That resilience can be measured or quantified because it’s easy and there are quick fixes to just getting back to where you were before your crisis or struggle.
I get sick to death of this type of simplistic thinking because it’s not helpful it’s harmful!
Greitens (2015) highlights this in his book on resilience. How can one ‘bounce back’ to what they were when a life event actually changes us? How can we be the person we were before the struggles, the hardships, the pain, the suffering? We can’t and we wont. Those struggles and crisis will become part of who we are. We emerge into a new ‘me’.
The best thing anyone said to me when I was counselling them through a significant crisis was; “I’m struggling to find what the new normal is now”. I thought this eloquently highlighted the challenges. Resilience isn’t going back to what we once were. It is dealing with and understanding that we are influenced by what has happened. We are still who we are but we now have emerged into something different. Rather than using the metaphor of a bouncing ball we need to think of ourselves as merging into something new as depicted in the image below.
Image 1: The emergence of a newly defined you
We don’t bounce back we merge into a new narrative. That is part of the struggle. How do I now understand and tackle how this has changed me? The resilience comes with the struggles, the learnings, the challenges, the new narratives. Not striving to get back to the old one.
Resilience is something that we ‘do’ and ‘be’ rather than focussing on something that we strive to become – an outcome. When we are living in the struggle we are ‘resiliencing’. It starts with our language and understanding of what it is.
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