I love the concept and science of human resiliency! Such an incredible protentional resource we have within our reach as humans, yet so many of us have no idea what it really means, never mind that we might be able to be one of these lucky people who is resilient.
First of all, lets be clear about what I am talking about when I say resilient. Resilience is NOT the absence of stress. Resilience is the experience of over-coming something difficult and using the experience to your benefit. Resilience is actually often the precursor to the concept of thriving. Yes, people who thrive in life have most certainly dealt with difficulty and suffering, and have gained a huge benefit from the experience. If you are an optimist, this next suggestion may be challenging but stay with me. Take a moment to think about human history and the sorts of tragedy humans have endured. Or, read the latest news headlines and consider the sort of suffering humans are experiencing daily. Humans have been asked to survive awful experiences since the beginning of our existence (many of which we inflict on ourselves I might add). Viktor Frankl put it best when he said
“If there is meaning in life at all, then there must be meaning in suffering. Suffering is an ineradicable part of life…without suffering the human life cannot be complete” (A Man’s Search for Meaning – 1946)
I am picturing all of you pessimists (and realists) out there thinking; “life is pretty much just awful so why expect anything different?”. That however is not the point of bringing this reality of human suffering to mind. It is because of suffering that we remember and enrich our capacity for behaviours such as compassion, patience, humility, self-control, friendship, love, empathy, and even joy. But, in order to gain from the suffering, we must get through it. That is why I think resilience is such a cool and important concept.
I am not suggesting that you go in search of suffering as a means of developing resilience. Not that there is not benefit to this which can be noted in traditional practices in some faiths such as fasting which develops the all-important self-control, and resistance to self-loathing. Of course, fasting has become a mainstream health trend as well. We now know that fasting also support resilience of the digestive system and our overall physical health. The theory behind this being a healthy practice is that our cells learn how to metabolize other forms of energy making adding flexibility to our energy sources and making the human body that much more useful. It also appears to play a role in the overall health of our cells and their longevity. Science is just beginning to get a really clear picture of how this practice supports our overall health. If you would like more information about this, check out this resource.
I was sharing this example with you to reinforce the point that we can gain from stress. And not only that, but we can become better from stress! We have become a society that sees stress as a bad thing, and certainly too much, for too long, can have very detrimental effects on us. But, learning how to cope with stress and using it to our advantage can support us in this life. And for all those optimists out there, turning towards our suffering and embracing it, can actually play a big role in achieving all the success you believe is possible, making your dreams come true!
The next time you notice a little suffering (my favorite example at the moment…. teenage drama) remember to turn towards the suffering and focus on understanding the path through it. Support yourself through the experience and look for that silver lining as it is always there, and will benefit and those around you in ways you would never expect.
May you be well,