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The Capacity for Authentic Resilience

“Life doesn’t get easier or more forgiving, we get stronger and more resilient”. We are often asked whether resilience is something that people are born with, or whether it something that you can develop – and the answer is both. We are all born with some degree of resilience- the human race would not have survived without it! However some people appear to be born with naturally higher levels of resilience than others. Author W Thomas Boyce, in his book “The Orchid and the Dandelion” refers to “orchid children’ who need delicate handling, and ‘dandelion children’ who are hardier and seem more resilient.

Whatever our inbuilt levels of resilience, the good news is that we ALL have the capacity to cultivate greater levels of resilience. Whilst resilience can be developed and honed by through going through difficult times, learning the tools of Authentic Resilience can also help us ‘resilience proof’ ourselves, preparing the way for when the shocks and stresses of life hit us.

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Stress

I was struck recently by someone saying that they were ‘suffering from stress’ and started reflecting on the nature of stress. In her TEDTalk ‘How to make stress your friend”, Kelly McGonigal talks about how we need to actually embrace stress and make friends with it, not be afraid of it. That stress is actually a GOOD thing! Stress, or perhaps it could be called ‘ increased pressure’ can – up to a point – make us perform better.

When we are under increased pressure – the deadline draws near, finances are tight, we find ourselves in a high stakes situation – our attention is increased – and this is a good thing! However, when we reach a certain point (and that point is different for all of us ) our anxiety levels also increase, which bring about physiological changes in our bodies. And that’s when we feel like we are ‘suffering from stress’. Given that we will all face times when we under increased pressure, how do we increase our capacity to deal with it, so that we are able to withstand more?

In our second Five R’s of Authentic Resilience, we talk about the aspects we need to cultivate in our everyday lives, from Gratitude and Flexibility, to setting times for Reflection and Renewal, and grappling with Meaning and Purpose.  We need to put these aspects into practice in our everyday lives to counter our stress levels so that we are more able to deal with pressure and less likely to feel we are ‘suffering with stress’.

-Written by Pippa Shaper

Photo by Ben White on Unsplash

Authentic Resilience

Authentic Resilience is a multi-faceted capacity that requires dedication and practise. Our Ten R’s Model keeps on developing and growing organically as we learn from the hundreds of people who come through our workshops. An important part of authentic resilience is the ability to grow, adapt, change and learn on an ongoing basis… that means not holding on too tightly to our own perspectives and hard earned opinions and rather being willing to remain open to new possibilities.  “Let go of who you think you are and become who you might be” Janine Shepard is a thought-provoking sentiment. It is true that a leopard never changes its spots … but humans change all the time, both in noticeable ways with visible paradigm shifts and in subtle yet powerful ways on a daily basis. Every experience, every thought, every emotion goes into the pot of making up who we are. We are constantly learning, constantly shifting and constantly changing – best we learn to flow with change rather than fight against it as it is the only constant.

The Relentlessness of Change

One of the BIG concepts we talk about within our resilience work is that of impermanence, which falls within the 6th R – Relentlessness of Change. It is a concept that can take a life time to wrap our heads and hearts around.
Impermanence acknowledges that everything changes, continually, whether we want it to or not. When we cling to what was, we don’t allow for what is and what might be.  The concept of impermanence is about “allowing”, about surrendering our idea of how we think things should be and embracing what is.

Reality Check

Our Ten R’s of Authentic Resilience  starts with number one -Reality: staring down the brutal truth and making meaning of the mess. When we are faced with change, challenge or adversity we can tend to take one of several positions. One of them is denial. “This isn’t happening to me” , “If I don’t think about it, it’ll all go away!” or even the optimistic sounding “Oh it’s fine! It’s all going to be OK!”

Other people can go to the opposite extreme: dramatisation of the facts, “My whole world has come to an end!”, “This is going to affect everything!” The truth is that resilience lies in the middle ground- that of realistic optimism. Being able to look at the facts head on, but with hope. Remaining positive about the future, but without a Pollyanna like approach. Realistic optimism means truly acknowledging your situation and balancing optimism with realism.