This is a guest post I wrote for amberskyeforbes.wordpress.com back in 2013. While reviewing my draft folder I discovered it and concluded the message is timely. Resilience is one of my favorite topics and is front and center in my consciousness today. I hope it resonates for you also.
Thank you Amber for having me as a guest blogger today. I want to share some thoughts I have about human resilience in the face of loss. Life is a series of continuous losses. After you take your first breath, you find your way on the path towards your final one. Our cells constantly regenerate. In fact, it is known that our bodies completely change every seven years. Typically people equate death with loss and sometimes use those terms interchangeably. Yet, loss is pervasive and incredibly universal. Here are some common losses to consider: loss of health, loss of youth, loss of innocence, loss of a relationship, loss of teeth, loss of weight, loss of physical strength, loss of vitality, loss of purpose, loss of money. Even if we live in the same home and work at the same building, our atmosphere is constantly changing. Quantum physics has proven that your favorite chair is really made up of energy particles that are not solid matter. Change, loss, regeneration, motion……. change, loss, regeneration, motion…… This theme is one of the few constants in the human experience.
So how do we cope when the human ego craves the status quo and desperately tries to hold on to what is familiar and safe? The first step is always the same ; acceptance. When one grieves a loss, it may take a while to come to acceptance, but once there, the path to resilience is within reach. Eckhart Tolle espouses that acceptance of what is will lead to inner peace. In his book The Power of Now , Tolle says
Watch any plant or animal and let it teach you acceptance of what is, surrender to the Now.
Let it teach you Being.
Let it teach you integrity — which means to be one, to be yourself, to be real.
Let it teach you how to live and how to die, and how not to make living and dying into a problem.
The idea of non-resistance has been embraced readily in the East, but not as much in the Western world. However, the popularity of Tolle’s work , along with yoga, meditation, and mindfulness practices, has made this concept more palatable across the globe.
A receptive attitude towards life is also essential to the cultivation of resilience. To be receptive means to be open to new ideas and possibilities, even in the throes of pain and sadness. It also includes the ability to look at situations in a new light and the awareness of a larger worldview. For example, deciding to move to a new city so that your partner can accept a new position may leave one feeling conflicted about giving up their current social connections and comfortable lifestyle. Yet, with a receptive attitude, one can see how this decision to support your partner may also bring them into alignment with a fulfilling new career path, nurturing like-minded friends, and awaken a dormant sense of adventure and vitality.
It is often much easier to make these behavioral changes in community. Community can mean biological family, family of creation, spiritual/ religious group, neighborhood circle, social media, or outside support system. For those who need additional support with the grieving process or making transitions, a support group or therapy group often can provide the community and treatment/support necessary to face the crisis in a healthy manner. I have worked many years as a therapist with people dealing with acute and chronic mental health challenges. The amount of loss and trauma many of these individuals carry is close to unimaginable. Often a history of abuse and/ or trauma is present in those with certain mental health issues, which can trigger substance abuse through self-medication. This choice can create more loss and trauma, along with the traumas inherent that many encounter in the mental health and criminal justice systems. The Mental Health Recovery Movement that is emerging in the US and Europe addresses these issues in a proactive , holistic, humane fashion. My work in a Recovery program gave me the opportunity to create and facilitate groups that embraces those values. I ran a Grief and Loss group that gave the members the space to develop trust, improve communication, and begin the path to acceptance, forgiveness, and hope. We often examined ways to re-frame a situation in order to encourage attitudinal change and healing. We often discussed how we gained something positive in the wake of a loss. When a commercial began airing with the slogan ” What will you gain when you lose? “, I began to wonder if the advertising firm was eavesdropping on our group!
I am not suggesting that resilience is inevitable, some people are genetically wired to be naturally more resilient than others. So perhaps there are those among us that experience less setbacks or regroup quicker from a significant loss. We all can make a huge impact upon our own destiny by increasing our awareness of when we need some form of treatment/ intervention in the face of depression, anxiety, extended grief, trauma, and difficult life transitions. Relief from suffering and recovery from loss is possible and there are many wonderful resources available. We all deserve the best possible life we can create for ourselves. Evidence of resilience is abundant both in nature and bustling cities, and everywhere in-between. Take a close look around you and you are bound to discover it in action.
header image by Selbymay (Own work) http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons