Ever wish that you could just skip over or fast-forward through the tough spots and challenges in your life? At some point, most of us probably have… What if leaping over unpleasant circumstances did indeed yield relief in the short run but also meant not learning from the experience? As Sir Winston Churchill once said: “If you are going through hell, keep going!”; maybe going through the tough time (through hell) is not all in vain.
Everyone, and I mean everyone, goes through some type of hard time at least once during their time on this planet: be it the death of a friend or loved one, loss of a job, a break-up, an accident, a move, childbirth, divorce, the list goes on and on (and on). As discussed in a previous article on self compassion, the experience of suffering is the one experience we all share; be it in a different type, intensity, or duration, we all suffer. What that experience is like and what it amounts to is tremendously different for everyone; how the suffering/tough times/challenges are dealt with (as friends or foes) has the very real potential of rendering vile experiences more bittersweet.
The process of adapting well in the face of adversity (be it trauma, tragedy, threat, or stress) is called resilience. In no way does resilience imply or indicate the eradication of any kind of suffering nor does it connote liking or enjoying it; rather, the road to resilience can be just as rocky and bumpy as the terrain on any other rough path in life. The major difference has to do with the approach taken to dealing with the tough time; how a person gets through (rather than over) the crisis. Just as no two individuals are exactly alike in any way, resilience looks different from person to person; what is helpful/beneficial for one person may be completely unhelpful even harmful for someone else. That is normal and natural! There simply cannot be one universal “magic formula” for resilience: there are far too many variables and idiosyncrasies/differences among people and circumstances for there to be one simple equation. However, here is one suggestion for sketching a rough draft of what comprises resilience:
Undoubtedly, resilience involves courage: bravery to approach situations that are usually avoided or pushed away; it takes a lot of gumption to choose to act in a way different from the “norm”. To opt to go through hell rather than fly over it; to opt for learning instead of ignoring or overlooking.
Your “secret ingredient” to resilience is just as unique as any other part of you; there is no wrong or mismatched ingredient! Each recipe is comprised of unique ingredients that meld together in various ways to result in an adaptive way to face adversity. I will share that my secret ingredient is a sense of humour (good natured humour, of course). I encourage you to try different ingredients to find the one that “tastes’ best to you! Go ahead and guess-and-test different ingredients to experience what works for you.
It is common to refer to people who are strong in character and deal well with adversities as “tough cookies”; that’s fair enough to say. Tough stuff is often durable. But what happens to a tough cookie when things get tough/when the hand holding it squeezes it? The tough cookie crumbles, right? So how about trying to be more like a marshmallow? Squeeze it or crush it as much as you like and it will bounce back. That is what is means to be resilient: to bounce back. To go through hell, have tough times, learn a thing or two, and come back to version 2.0 of yourself. A little wiser and more well-travelled, too!
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