By Shawn McAndrew
I like to watch singing competitions (“The Voice”, the UK’s “X Factor”). I watch young and old artists stand in front of internationally known personalities and sing. These contestants come in hopeful, scared, but determined. A few of them make it through the auditions, and go on to compete on the national stage. Even fewer ultimately realize their dreams of being a star. The vast majority will fail this process, and I often wonder how they fare after their dreams are dashed. Some of them return the following season and try again. Most do not.
What makes people keep coming back when they have not achieved their initial goal? What makes anyone initially even try against the odds?
Capacities of Resilience
One answer is resilience. Linda Graham, a marriage and family therapist and expert on the neuroscience of human relationships, writes in her book, Bouncing Back, “Capacities for resilience are innate in the brain, hard-wired by evolution.”
She also points out that, “Whether we tend to bounce back from terrible setbacks or stay where we’ve been thrown depends on our learned patterns of response to other people and events.
“These patterns become… deeply encoded into our neural circuitry from an early age,” Linda concludes.
Why I Get Up Each Morning
For me, resilience is the act of getting up each morning even though I may be facing tragedy or deep sadness. It is the quiet inner voice that continues to urge me onward, insisting that I not give up, or give in. Resilience is in the bones; it is the part of me that doesn’t let the negative win – the part that says, “You are capable of doing this.”
This voice manages to be heard over the dark side messages, the roars of “I can’t,” “I’m not worthy,” or “I don’t want to feel this pain!”
This voice tells me that I AM worthy, that the pain is short but the gain is long. It tells me that though I am suffering in this moment, I will not always suffer; amazing gifts will come from this experience.
Face Difficulty Head-On
Hoffman Institute’s very own Advisory Council Chair, Joan Borysenko, has written a book about resilience – It’s Not the End of the World. In it, she presents three secrets of resilience:
- A resolute acceptance of reality
- A deep belief that life is meaningful
- An uncanny ability to improvise
“Resilient thinkers face difficult situations head-on. Then they do whatever it takes to survive,” Joan writes in her book.
There have been many encounters in my life that have proven this to be true. When I lose sight of the truth – the fact that I will not always suffer – I start to wallow in my pain. But at some point I remember the truth of my Spirit: that when I get to the other side of the darkness, there will be good things that come of it; I will be a better person for it.
Listen to the Resilient Voice
Over the past couple of years, I have grieved several losses – my father, a beloved pet, several wonderful friends. Many times it was hard to face the day. The resilient voice in me suggested keeping a journal of gratitude, to explore and honor my feelings around loss.
Through this journaling, I deepened my learning about love, compassion, caring, and life and death. Without going through this exercise, I wouldn’t have gained a true appreciation for the love and light that these people and things left to me and the world. This is where resilience is so key to changing our lives – when we are able to tap into Spirit, we have the strength and vitality to keep going, to show up even when we think we’re out of the game. It helps us rewire our thinking, and reinforces the values we get when we keep showing up and moving forward. It allows us to reconcile the “why” and understand the “how.”
I believe that I’ve always had elements of resilience, but I didn’t always know how to access it or turn negatives into positives. Through the power of the Hoffman Process, I came to understand that my childhood patterns kept me from my gifts and true essence. I finally learned how to be persistent and passionate about what I deserved and wanted in life. We can learn what holds us back from being our best selves. That alone helps to teach us resilience.