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Because resilience is a proven ingredient for success, happiness and satisfaction and the lack of it has been shown to lead to a poor quality of life, it’s important to recognize that you can grow resilience, the ability to recover from hardship, trauma and other stressors. You can build emotional muscle to avoid being taken down by adversity and bounce back from it more quickly and effectively.
“The Kids Are Alright” (Newsweek, 9/3/21, pp 16-26) provides an explanation of resilience, including its manifestations at the neuro-cellular level. According to its author, Adam Piore, susceptibility to depression is unsurprisingly linked with avoidance of risk and a more negative life outlook, while “resilience is associated with a more positive” outlook and “boldness” and taking chances.
For example, if you’ve been burned enough times in the romance department, you might stop dating for fear of being hurt again. This behavior will help you avoid one type of suffering (rejection), but it will do nothing for you overall, nothing to teach you how to tolerate hurt and rejection in order to win at romance. If you had a childhood in which your family didn’t take physical or emotional care of you, you might believe that people aren’t trustworthy or dependable. To become resilient, you will need to shed this belief and surround yourself with trustworthy, dependable, supportive folks.
Psychologist Martin Seligman, a founder and proponent of positive psychology, says that people vacillate between two emotional states: languishing (low positive emotion, low engagement, low meaning, low achievement) and flourishing. According to him, “Languishing is defined not by the presence of high anxiety or high depression, but by the absence of positives”—emotions, engagement, good relationships and meaning.
Speaking of meaning, resilience also involves making positive meanings of unfortunate life events. I either could look at my decades of chronic dieting, binge-eating, and bulimia as tragic and unfair or as part of my identity in a positive way. I wouldn’t be me without these experiences! And the best part is that I survived and grew from them. That is the kind of thinking that breeds resilience, as opposed to someone who allows their childhood or later events to shape and define them.
Although temperament and life history play a part in how resilient we are, that’s not the whole story. If you want a better life, stay engaged with seeking it, find people you adore and who adore you, gain comfort with all your emotions, and focus on the positives and what you want in life. Imagine yourself as resilient and you will become so.
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