This week I learned about resilience. Resilience needs flexibility and bendiness. The Willow is resilient, the Oak tree isn’t. I think this week it really hit home for me that the necessary element resilient people have developed is not as much th strength but the flexibility.
Certainly, they emerge stronger. But when stuff happens, they bend into it. They don’t stiffen and try to weather the storms with a tough exterior. The resilient people may not tell the world, but if they’ve come out of their storm stronger, there’s an excellent chance some of the time was spent in their bathrobe all day on the couch. (Listen to the podcast on Thursday for the story).
Resilient people allow themselves to be weak. Get messy. Cry — alone, with a trusted friend, with a counselor. Resilient people know that with practice, it gets easier, they get stronger and more flexible. Getting quiet, making space for growth, facing the fear that control is an illusion and uncertainty is the only certainty. Life happens. Hope floats.
The opportunity in the storm is to come out stronger and more flexible and able to see clearly the beauty that every soul aches for.
“I was given the gift of seeing that beneath the craziness of day-to-day life in this unhealthy world is a beauty and power that every soul aches for whether we’re awake to the longing or not.”
Hayes, Cylvia. When Life Blows Up: A Guide to Peace, Power and Reinvention
“Stuck in the same old story, many of us remain so entrenched in tales of victimization and martyrdom that we can scarcely imagine an alternate, positive, or redemptive reading of the text of our lives. Perhaps because we have been taught to view life through one particular lens, we simply don’t see other, more inspiring versions of our tale that could liberate us.”
Kim Schneiderman: Step Out of Your Story
The prompt comes from a technique out of narrative therapy and involves reframing. The entire technique is in the book: Step Out of Your Story by Kim Schneiderman.
The idea is that you can tell your life in an infinite number of ways — you can see your life through different lenses and reframe stories of your life to see better the fears you have faced, the challenges you have overcome, and also to realize that you really are a hero in a story that is constantly unfolding around you. You are in the midst of the story.
This prompt is to begin to get to know you, the protagonist of your story. Write a character sketch for yourself, answering these central questions:
1.Who is the protagonist?
2.What does the protagonist want?
3.What is getting in the way?
I highly recommend Step Out of Your Story for a very detailed description of how to answer the questions. It’s a fun exercise in any case and might get you curious about reframing your story by simply trying to answer the questions about yourself in this story that is your life. At the very least, it’s a great way to begin to realize that you are the protagonist of your life. Interestingly, too, it’s a great exercise to try when you’ve begun to realize that you can only control yourself.
Now that you can see yourself as the hero of your story, try facing a fear. We all have them. Developing resilience can happen when we successfully face a fear.
This has to be done in a loving, safe context. We don’t want to throw ourselves into the deep end of the pool and assume we’ll learn to swim.
The idea is to choose something you are afraid of, like public speaking — a pretty comon fear. It’s really important to only do this on your own if it’s a mild, everyday fear. If you have experienced trauma or experience severe anxiety, do this with a therapist.
Choose small, safe doses of this activity and begin. The goal is small, safe limited bits of exposure — including watching other people safely engage in the activity, noticing their success and positive outcomes. You might watch people give a public speech, then notice that they had a positive outcome.
Over time, you gently, with lots of love and self compassion, level up your challenge until you can face the thing and realize that it no longer has power over you. You’ll likely still feel a little fear but you’ll be able to do the activity and have a positive outcome.
5. Level-UP / Go Deeper
If you have trouble being gentle and loving with yourself you might want to try an exercise in self compassion.
This involves thinking about how you might treat a friend or a small child. As you move through your day, notice times when it is difficult to be kind to yourself and consider how you would act or what you might say if instead of yourself, you were speaking to a very dear friend or a dearly loved small child.
When you have time and space, consider writing out what you might have said differently and consider why it is different for yourself.
Try, as you move through your week, to treat yourself as well as you might treat your dearest friend.
6. POD Poem of the day (Maya Angelou: Still I Rise)
7. Podcast (Life After Dark — Kate Bower, Everything Happens)
8. Video (Who Do You Think You Are: Cylvia Hayes, TEDx)
9. Hero: Cylvia Hayes, Leader
Why? It occurred to me after I spoke with Cylvia (podcast Thursday) that it is rare, when your life literally blows up, to take that experience and use it to empower others. Using that experience to change yourself is wonderful, using it to help others is heroic. She’s also still a leader in making positive lasting changes to our economy. Learn more about her. You will be better for it.
10. Take Care of Yourself This Week and Share if you know someone who might like this.
The Underbelly Podcast available everywhere you download podcasts. Resilience episode Thursday.