How to Cultivate the Resilience We All Need

How to Cultivate the Resilience We All Need

Posted by Dan Gottlieb on Mar 15, 2017 1:20 pm


Years ago there was a mattress commercial where a woman was laying comfortably in bed on her presumed new mattress. Her husband walks in the door with two ostriches and proclaims "hi honey, I've sold everything and we're starting an ostrich farm". His wife still enjoying the mattress and says "I'm comfortable with that".!

I guess that's the ultimate definition of resilience, simply being comfortable no matter what happens to you. Of course I think that only happens to three kinds of people; those who are enlightened, those who are in a coma, and those who are no longer living!

So what about the rest of us regular humans? How do we how do we find resilience when yesterday we were walking and today we're not? How do we cope when a loved one is now disabled and all of a sudden life as we knew it stopped and turned into something completely different.

Immediately after my accident 37 years ago, I said to people I couldn't live with this nor did I want to. All I wished was to close my eyes and never wake up.
Nevertheless, I told my family I would live with it a couple of years and then make up my mind.

After two years I had a conversation with either my deepest truth or my higher power-I'm not sure. But I said that I would live with this if I had hope that one day I would walk. Of course deep down I know there was no hope 37 years ago.
And then I said okay, I will live with this if I can have hope that I would not be so sick, that my body wouldn't be so volatile. And of course I knew that truth also. There was no way to assume anything would be different.
And of course I decided to live.

First I thought I did it because I didn't have the guts to end my life. And then I thought I did it for my children and family (and that is part of the truth). But the real reason I chose life is because that's what we do. Given the option of life and death, we choose life. We might hate the pain or the dependency or anyone over million other issues, but we live. And we live because we have the same life force as everything else that is alive. You see it in the foliage and in the animal kingdom-even the backyard animals and you see it in all of us.

So the first step in resilience? Make a conscious decision to choose life. This life. Not the life you had were the life you want or deserve, but this life. As it is right now. If you were a caregiver don't postpone your life until some unclear time in the future. Don't choose to live life when…

Step 1. Choose life!

Re: How to Cultivate the Resilience We All Need

Posted by Dan Gottlieb on Mar 21, 2017 5:40 pm

Resilience #2
What other ingredients contribute to our resilience, the ability to recover from trauma?
Certainly, we cannot be naïve and disregard genetics as they are a factor in almost everything we do, think and feel. But now that we have learned so much about brain plasticity, we know that biology is not destiny and whether our genetic predisposition is weak or strong, we can nurture our own resilience.
I’m sure that when that truck tire crushed my car all those years ago, I was knocked unconscious. But I must have been aroused when the rescue team were getting me out of my car. That’s because I remember saying: “tell everybody I know to get here right away”. That’s the last thing I remember for several days. That request did not come from a logical brain as I was in shock. That request came from some deeper part of my brain that new I needed the care of others to survive this.
We all do. As a matter fact all mammals do and perhaps all things living need the care of others in order to survive. Redwood trees have very shallow root systems for such big trees. But they grow in clusters and their roots interlock. They need each other. We are hardwired to need to care and offer care. And without it, we wither and die. As a matter fact, there was some research many years ago that indicated sustained loneliness affected life expectancy as much as tobacco smoke!
But for many, trauma triggers a withdrawal reaction. Understandably, we withdrawal into depression and self-pity or we withdrawal into anger or shame. All of which makes sense and all of which makes resilience almost impossible.
But for many of us, we have to be the ones to reach out and ask for what we desperately need-understanding and compassion and friendship. In order to do that, we must have the strength and courage to be vulnerable. To talk about our own fears and sense of fragility. Once we have the courage to do that, other people typically open their hearts, their eyes and their arms to us.
I spent the first 15 years after my accident saying “no thank you, I can do it.” And the last 20 years saying: “please help me”. The latter makes my life easier and helps me feel more connected to humanity.
Asking takes courage.
Resilience #2
allow yourself to be vulnerable other people so you can move beyond where you are this moment.

Re: How to Cultivate the Resilience We All Need

Posted by Dan Gottlieb on Mar 29, 2017 2:36 pm

Here's the bad news about resilience:

resilience is affected by your genetics and the quality of your childhood. Things you cannot control. Or can you?

If you grew up with highly anxious parents and/or absent ones, you may have missed out on feeling safe and secure within yourself. If those are not present, experiencing trauma on top of that puts you at risk for depression or anger or isolation. But…

You cannot change your history, but you can change the way you experience yourself. You see, for the first year or two of your life, you were filled with love and felt very secure. Like all babies, you giggled and you experienced awe in the little things, like a key or a leaf. So how can we recapture that, knowing that it was once in there and  still is.

 Of course resilience is born of necessity. Without suffering, we wouldn't have any need for resilience.
But resilience is also a product of some level of self-confidence. This starts with self compassion. So don't try to talk yourself out of your anger or your depression. And blaming others is not helpful. Nor is self-pity. But self compassion is simply feeling care for that person you look at in the mirror who is in pain.

It almost doesn't matter who did what to whom, the injustice you live with, the loved ones who may have abandoned you. What matters is that you are suffering. And when you suffer, you need care. And compassion.

Step three: An attitude of kindness towards yourself.

(Spoiler alert: the next step is about faith)

Re: How to Cultivate the Resilience We All Need

Posted by joshedwards on Apr 4, 2017 3:40 am

Many researchers agree that we're more resilient than we think. ... learn confidence, emotion regulation, and impulse control, all of which serve us well when tragedy strikes.

Dissertation help uk

Re: How to Cultivate the Resilience We All Need

Posted by Dan Gottlieb on Apr 5, 2017 3:08 pm

Thanks so much for weighing in from a research perspective. Do me a favor, please continue to comment here with what the research shows and what it doesn't about resilience-that can only help all of us.

Re: How to Cultivate the Resilience We All Need

Posted by Dan Gottlieb on Apr 5, 2017 3:27 pm

So let's talk about this business of faith. I'm not talking about faith in a higher power, although that can be helpful.
I'm talking about faith as letting go and trusting. Of course that's the case when we have faith in a higher power (not belief, but faith as they are two very different things). But I am talking about a psycho biological kind of faith. Specifically, swimming!

Remember when you first learned to float. You were treading water and having a good time and then somebody told you to lay on your back in the water. Sounded crazy to you, yes? So when you tried it the first time your body was tense, you got nervous and down you went. But after while you began to float. And why?

You let go. Letting go is an act of faith. You didn't understand how water could hold your body (I still don't), but you let go anyway. Faith is letting go and having this physiologic knowing that you will be okay.

"I don't know how I can live with this", I hear in my office so very frequently. But those who are resilient, know that they can. Not just believing that they will be okay, but knowing in our body and soul that we will be okay no matter what. That we will be okay if our body doesn't get better. We will be okay if the pain continues, if the degeneration continues, if a spouse leaves us, if a loved one dies if…

These are things none of us want and when they happen everyone feels anger or fear or grief or self-pity or all of the above. And there's a part of us that knows that after the tears and self-pity, somehow we will be okay.

Several years ago I was in a terrible accident in a comedy club (the irony is not lost on me!) In which I was thrown out of my wheelchair, had a severe concussion and re-traumatized my spinal cord.. In the immediate aftermath, I had severe neuropathic pain (still do) and my left arm was paralyzed. This was my dominant arm that was responsible for 80% of the little function I had. I was depressed beyond words, wondering if I could go through all of this rehab again.

And a few days later as I lay in bed by myself, a part of me just woke up and I knew that I would live with this. After all I love so many people and I am loved. And I had faith that something inside of me would get me through this again. I had no idea how or what it was going to look like, but I did know that pretty soon I would be able to experience that love again.

Of course, this kind of faith is like anything else-it requires practice. So, like most of us, I have had multiple trauma in my life. Lots of time to practice faith. After all of this drama, I have experienced getting through it time and time again.

I wish the same for you

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