We will feature a new article here each month written by one of our group members.
FOSTERING RESILIENCE IN A WORLD THAT INCLUDES SUFFERING
People who are struggling to cope with hardship usually experience many powerful emotions, such as anger, sadness, fear, and anxiety. Individuals who are less resilient stay stuck longer in these negative emotions and thoughts even after the hardship has long ended. More resilient people more quickly revert to their pre-hardship psychological state. This is often called the bounce back. These more resilient people can even develop a new sense of purpose in their lives. From hardship and trauma we can develop new strengths that we did not even know existed within us. Magic Johnson in the ESPN movie "The Announcement" describes many intense struggles within himself before he could find the courage to turn a tremendous traumatic hardship into a positive purpose in life. He turned his own suffering with the HIV virus into a newfound calling" that has helped not only him, but also many others.
So how can one become more resilient? Here's a look at a few key characteristics of people who manifest resilience during life's hardships.
A Sense of Hope and Trust in the World
However, after a significant trauma, such as this, it often takes time before trust and hope can once again flourish. Some, if not many, of the individuals who have suffered at the hands of this mass murderer will also suffer from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Those who suffer from PTSD experience a form of trauma that is so severe that it has significant impact on their ability to function.
They often have difficulty in falling or staying asleep, they are irritable and will have outbursts of anger, they often have difficulty in concentrating, and they often become hypervigilant. Individuals who have PTSD lose their sense of trust and safety. Individuals who have PTSD will often need the professional assistance of others, such as a psychotherapist, to help them to restore a basic sense of trust in the world.
A Meaningful System of Support
Dorothea McArthur in the September 2010 article "If You Are Hit You Don't have to Fall" peaks about the meaningful connection between strangers that led to an expression of compassion for a deer that had been hit by a car. The compassion expressed in the words and gentle touching that occurred seemed to help bring the deer back to life. It appears that the meaningful compassionate relation of these individuals not only helped the deer, but also helped the people that were involved.
Interpreting Experiences in a New Light
An individual I know sums up this attitude by saying that if her daughter had not been murdered she would not have been able to help other mothers through their grief process. This individual helped establish support groups for other grieving mothers, transforming her own pain by making a difference for others. She learned that good actions in helping others could lead to good consequences that gave her life purpose once again.
I remember this in my own life, when my wife had become seriously ill. I recognized that both my wife and I were in for some very hard times. Watching her become more and more sick and disabled was often unbearable. Yet I stayed focused on the side of hope rather than despair. I felt despair at times, along with other emotions, including fear and anger. But I stayed determined in my compassion and commitment. I can look back at this now. It was during this time that my wife and I became closer to each other, struggling and fighting together against this disease. I learned to help her, and she learned to accept my help, in ways that we had not done in the past. I also gained a stronger recognition of my capacity to make a commitment, and a stronger capacity to be assertive, which was necessary to help my wife get the attention that she needed. Just like other stories that I mentioned above, I recognized that others, namely friends and family, could help me get through that time in my life. I was able to get through this difficult time because ultimately I was willing to face hardship.
Self-Reflection and Insight
Fortunately, if you look to improve your own resilience during more minor misfortunes or hassles- rather than when significant tragedy or adversity pays a visit-you will learn ways to buffer, and to grapple more constructively, with the harshest sting of adversity. You will have practiced how to be resilient in a world that includes suffering.
Dr. Glenn Peters is a Clinical Psychologist and a Licensed Marriage Family and Child Psychotherapist. He is also a Certified EMDR Therapist practicing in Encino and Glendale. He is a member of the Independent Psychotherapy Network. You can contact Dr. Peters at (818) 475-2666 or Gappsyche@aol.com. His website is http:www.glennpetersphd.com
Copyright 2016 by Dr. Glenn Peters
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