Sunday Service Discussion Notes for May 20 and May 27, 2012
Our discussion on the topic of Resilience spanned two weeks, taking place on May 20th and 27th.
During the first week we discussed how resilience is not a trait, it is a process. It is not defined within situational boundaries, but is a condition that leads toward a beneficial end that is common to all situations. The situations we go through in life, although sometimes hard, cause us to learn and grow. Being resilient helps us to learn the most from these situations. We all agreed that each of us will go through some trying experiences. The question is: How do we come out of these situations? Do we learn from them? Or do we let them send us into a tailspin?
"Resilience in psychology refers to the idea of an individual's tendency to cope with stress and adversity. This coping may result in the individual "bouncing back" to a previous state of normal functioning, or using the experience of exposure to adversity to produce a "steeling effect" and function better than expected (much like an inoculation gives one the capacity to cope well with future exposure to disease). Resilience is most commonly understood as a process, and not a trait of an individual."
What causes us to be resilient? If we aren't resilient, how do we become so? Many suggestions were offered by our group:
It was pointed out that although you may learn coping skills from only one situation, that you can apply those skills to all situations which require them.
It was suggested that we should handle life's situations as they arise, rather than looking for problems that aren't there, before they have even happened. We shouldn't wast time worrying about imaginary scenarios that we have cooked up out of fear.
One participant shared that she had done some reading which explained that we before we enter this incarnation, we plan our upcoming lifetime, with all its experiences, setting ourselves up to learn the needed lessons. If we plan these situations, who can we blame when we are not prepared? Shouldn’t we have strength to handle what we planned? We planned it for a reason – to grow.
"This, too, shall pass," was a favored saying that helped some of us to endure tough circumstances; a reminder that all unhappy times do come to an end.
Avoid giving undue energy to negative thoughts. This will not help us to "bounce back" but will only cause us to spiral downward. Dwelling on past traumas will not help us to develop resilience, it will only sap our energy and distract us from the present, where our attention is most needed.
Another way of building resilience is to seek the help of others. To realize that we are not alone can give us the confidence to rebuild. We need to create support networks for ourselves of people to whom we can connect. Being able to simply share our traumas with others helps to reduce the magnitude of the problem, like an emotional release valve. These people we look to for support don't necessarily have to solve our problems, they are there to provide a sounding board for us to communicate the issue out loud and clarify it for ourselves. We did note that it was a good idea to be discerning in who we shared our troubles with - others may have even bigger problems that we do, and we may want to be careful in choosing a friend who is not also enduring a trying personal time when we "unload" our problems.
One person shared that she lets others just be themselves, and in this way she is able to learn something new or can see a new way of coping with a situation that she might not have seen on her own.
Pick your battles. We need to choose how we want to spend our energy. Decide for yourself when in unpleasant situations: Is it really worth the time and trouble to be worried about this?
Look for the lesson being taught by each situation, and try to find positive meanings even in traumatic circumstances. This will help us build the strength to navigate through tough times.
It is important for us to identify ourselves as survivors, and not as victims. Our very mentality can affect how events play out.
We talked about how we should prepare for potential issues during the good times, when we have the available resources, calmness, and thinking capacity to do so. An example of this is the idea of earthquake preparedness: to be best prepared it is a good idea to collect foodstuffs ahead of time, plan an exit route from your home, and have other supplies gathered and contingencies planned for. If we do this ahead of time, when an earthquake does happen, we are as ready as we can be, rather than finding ourselves in a panic trying to both recover from the actual event and deal with the needs of the day at a time when we are not thinking clearly.
One person mentioned that they had seen a video clip of Bruce Lee saying how we should be "like water" in that we need to adapt to any situation that arises the way water takes on the form of any container into which it is poured.
A reference was made to soldiers who have Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) from war time experiences. Another suggested that similar traumas are experienced from civil or domestic situations, and while we need to find good ways to cope with these issues, sometimes people who are caught unprepared to deal with adversities such as trauma, tragedy, threat, or stress are prescribed drugs as way to cope. We also noted that sometimes during adversity, many people turn to a "crutch" or escapist support system, such drinking, gambling, or any number of other addictive and destructive behaviors. We believe that this is not the best way to develop resilience.
Another participant suggested that some people are motivated to put themselves in very stressful situations. The objective explanation was: We have to believe that this is their path, and the source of their lessons. How well they absorb the lessons would depend a great deal on how resilient they are.
One person said that we have a need for inner resilience; that we need to trust that no matter what happens, we will be fine. She stated that we may be better off to "go with the flow" and to not resist events that are happening. She shared the quote, "Whatever you resist shall persist."
We encouraged everyone to remember that we were given this life and all of its ups and downs because we were strong enough to handle them. We should recall this each time we are faced with adversity to help us feel secure that we can overcome it.