Lately I have been coming back a topic that is near and dear to my heart…he concept of whether or not we are have to be defined by our wounds. Most recently, I have been thinking more about resilience. It was raised recently during a discussion with a friend when she reflected to me that I have always had a knack at going after what I want and drawing it towards me. While this may be true, I have begun to wonder more about why this is. Life hasn’t been easy, no silver platters being served here, so what has been the magical puzzle piece? Herein lies my new fascination with resilience. A lot of discussion and some work is done with children around building resilience but I am more interested in how we older folks (ahhemm I have a chronological birthday coming up that has nothing to do with my actual age but excuse me while I let out a sigh.) I am far more intrigued by how we attain skills that we may not have attained in childhood to allow for the possibility of moving forward despite what happened in the past. In world where trauma has become a way in which we pathologize ourselves and others, it would seem at times that it is impossible to move beyond what hurdles we have all had to jump over in the past. With labels like Post Traumatic Stress Disorder being thrown around or potentially attached to anyone who has gone through physical, sexual or emotional abuse it would seem that we are most surely going to be defined by that for the rest of eternity. But on the other hand there are countless examples of people who have not only overcome those traumas or hurdles but have embraced them as a strength. We discussed several of these people in our discussions such as Amy Purdy in our chat Living Beyond Limits We also discussed the amazing Amy Mullins Ahhh how does it feel….to be on your own, with no direction home Both my grandmothers have been living examples of living a life full of strength through adversity. I think my Nana was probably my first role model on what it means to embrace your wounds as a strength rather than a weakness. It as been said that I have some of her will to thrive. While I think that this is a strength, I also believe that the Universe helps support us along the way. But with the piece that is ours, I am intrigued…what makes some people thrive and not just survive?
This all leads me to the above Ted Talks with Jane McGonigal. Yes, my fascination with TED is back! At first glance, McGonigal’s talk had me wondering what the gaming industry has to do with resilience. I am not a huge fan of games and don’t generally encourage people to spend too much time on them as we can get lost in the virtual world. That being said, I have to say that I became very impressed with her lecture as it went on. McGonigal discusses her own experience with trauma and how it’s crushing affect began to have her thinking about suicide. But instead of continuing along that continuum, she began to use her experience and her supports to pull herself out of the ditch. From this experience she created a game called Super Better that helps other people thrive as well. A favorite part of the lecture is when she mentions Post Traumatic Growth. Ooooo doesn’t that sound uplifting? It is the concept of how people use trauma to help them with personal growth. As I watched riveted I thought “Ok now you got me hooked!” A quick google search brought up even more that delighted my soul. I found this article from Psychology Today that discusses the power of the stories that we tell ourselves http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/what-doesnt-kill-us/201303/the-key-posttraumatic-growth-0. Yes stories of that carry with them limited beliefs have the capacity to become our reality just as much as stories of strength. This is not to say that there is not room for grief, sadness, anger, disappointment, hurt and all the rest. I feel strongly that it is important to not just turn a frown upside down. But there is a point of which the stories we tell ourselves begin to take on a life of their own and can become either the thing that helps us rebuild our life or the ones that will tear us down.
McGonigal speaks to four aspects of resilience that help strengthen it’s muscles. She spoke about getting physical. It’s the ole “move a muscle change a thought.” Move, stretch, exercise, do. She encourages people to stay active most of the day. I would say that this needs to be balanced with being as we will then just overly reinforce the doing muscle. But I find for me that this is crucial in my overall mental health. Physical exercise has always been a very important piece of the puzzle in what has kept me emotionally stable. If I am feeling stuck in a rut, a good yoga class, walk in fresh air or trip to the gym is definitely the best medicine for me. She then discusses mental focus which includes building willpower. Yes, while willpower can’t be the only thing that you rely upon, it is a crucial piece. Will power to me has the connotation of “white knuckling it.” I like to think more about choosing choices that create a loving and nurturing relationship with the self. Ultimately, the choices we make either nurture us or they don’t. Emotional focus is using the muscle of curiosity and love. This is about being flexible enough to allow new information to come in. Resilience is built through being curiious about how you could become helathier over time. If we stay rigid in our opinions and old way of thinking and doing then we stay stagnant. Finally, social focus is about being able to gain and grow from our connections with others. Social focus happens when we are connected with others and when we are grateful for the life we have. Oxytocin is the bonding hormone and is released through touch and physical loving connections with others. Humans are social animals meant to be in connection so get out there and hug someone!
There you have it, the beginning of our discussions on resilience unearthed again. This is such a rich and deep area for exploration that I am sure there will be more to come. What helps you bounce back from lives struggles? How do you thrive and not just survive? Share your stories down below and let’s start a new revolution of thrivers!