It is likely that many of you do not know, immersed as we are in infinite amalgamations of information, the reason why this blog has been, with me, almost inactive for quite some time since its heyday between 2007 and 2018. The topic, the accident and the slow overcoming of its consequences by my dearest person, is related to what I wanted to raise today: overcoming difficult life situations, the keys to achieving or improving the quality of emotional management, which I believe, after what I learned both from my daughter and from all the wonderful human beings I met during the process.
We do not live in easy times. I recently thought and wrote about today’s young people, formerly called the cotton generation and that we should be baptizing the steel generation, about how they are cultivating by leaps and bounds mechanisms of resilience, of emotional strength that have allowed them to deal with a pandemic and now they make it easier for them to face the idea (in Ukraine and reality) of world war. We must today, more than ever, from school, in our intimate or family contexts, promote the process and continue cultivating, with the greatest possible force, the following (and those that occur to you), elements:
1. To suffer, you learn, more in the first person but there is also something transmittable
If the human being lives looking for meaning, sometimes the learning that certain difficult situations provide, seems to be the only one. There is a lot of learning, in some points transmittable but not in others, in the experience of suffering. That is why we have much to learn from those who have experienced difficult situations. As a contemporary example, we live today with fellow Ukrainians fleeing the war in their countries. Letting them speak, listening to them, will not only make them feel better, more accompanied in suffering, more useful by teaching us important life lessons, but it will also provide important lessons to those of us who have not lived their experiences. Listening, supporting and trying not to prejudge, from sometimes distant positions, their experiences, will be enriching for everyone. And this last point is important: one of the most important things I’ve learned is not to overvalue empathy. Although all the efforts of others to put themselves in our place are appreciated, it turns out that it is 100 percent impossible. You learn to suffer, and in this case the teachers at the most important university, the university of life, are and will always be those who have experienced extreme situations firsthand. It is impossible to put yourself in their place, so loving and respecting them is the best way to empathize and learn from them.
So if you are suffering, if you have suffered, receive my most sincere admiration. It is true that suffering makes us stronger, it is something that will provide us with a greater capacity to be happy, to resist, to be more resilient afterwards.
Running a thick veil, ignoring, ignoring the opportunities to emotionally educate our own (children, siblings, friends), will only lead to low tolerance for frustration and emotional suffering for all of them later.
The subject has meant, if you look closely, a problem of education in other times, especially in terms of the almost null exposure to issues of emotional, psychological conflict of the boys. If in the case of girls, they were more easily exposed to family problems (the mother who showed her feelings or expressed her emotional discomfort to a greater extent with them), the typical thing in terms of boys was “let the boy play.” and do not overwhelm him with those kinds of questions. All of this has not resulted in “tougher” men, but on the contrary, in a male gender that is much more vulnerable in terms of emotional management.
2. Go establishing GOALS, overcome, without haste, oneself
It is the only type of competition that makes sense: the one that we establish with our own, very varied limits. There are no universal challenges beyond that of overcoming oneself, nor work with more meaning than doing it, in the direction that we decide, step by step. Whether it’s the challenge of climbing Everest, quitting smoking, walking again, or spiritually accepting adversity, the challenge is to always grow, however little, each day. There are no impossible goals when every day we achieve them a little more.
And sometimes, on some issues, we can’t grow any more. It is time not to experience it as a failure but as a sign that we have already arrived, that it is time to change our goal, to transport ourselves to any other starting line, in any other place. The Revolver song said it in a memorable lyric…. “The danger is not a question of a couple of blows, the danger is not knowing where to go”, so it will be essential, without forgetting the next point, what follows.
4. Self-play competition, motivation
We often overlook it, but the power of gratitude is essential for mental health. Simple acts of kindness, of being compassionate to oneself and others release oxytocin in the brain and make us more open to each other and to learning. In the realm of teaching, learning environments that promote kindness and compassion also promote academic risk-taking and innovation. We also forgot, in the sense that we were telling, to thank each other, reward ourselves for having achieved each of the goals that we are considering before going for the next one. There is a lot of talk about Gamification, about rewarding in various ways to motivate students, children, etc. when I think the important thing is to teach them to motivate themselves. Being more generous with others but also giving ourselves gifts when we deserve it, learning to self-motivate ourselves when faced with heavy or difficult tasks, is essential. Work hard, party (or whatever else we are passionate about) hard, you know :)
5. Objectives, self-realization linked to values
I cannot ignore the anecdote of Victor Frankl (*), one of the fathers of Existentialist Psychology who wrote part of his work on napkins from a Nazi concentration camp. At some point, the soldiers seized his year work and burned them, and Frankl started again. As a living example of his theory, that of the human being in search of meaning, the most important thing to be happy is to have objectives, goals that go beyond ourselves. If it is important to have goals, it is even more so if they are linked to values. And values are linked, once again, to education and self-knowledge. It happens that in many cases, again in childhood or due to lack of opportunities or introspection later, no work has been done to establish a system of values that gives meaning to life. In other words, being is also learned. Establishing an identity centered on values, defining them as what guides us beyond ourselves and our most basic needs, is essential for emotional strength. Does the idea resonate with you these days that Ukrainians are resisting because they firmly believe in their peace and that of their children? Russian soldiers, despite the indoctrinating efforts of Putin and company, do not obey the same logic.
6. Eliminate guilt, not responsibility
I don’t believe in good people but I do believe in those who, according to what we have seen in the previous point, try to be good every day. And when you have kindness, the responsibility to be a good person, the commitment to be useful to the positive evolution of this society, as a principle, as an objective, as a value or as a goal, guilt has no place. We should feel lucky and proud if we identify with the above, eliminating our own guilt and trying, incidentally, as far as possible, to understand that many others have not had that luck. I was recently reading a study that talked about how a single traumatic event can alter the brain in ways that are sometimes intractable. Nobody can put themselves, as we saw, 100 percent in nobody’s place, so blaming only makes sense if it can serve to cause some improvement.
7. Emotion reason balance: it could be worse….
Living with our backs to our emotions leads us to societies governed by sick, jaded individuals, drowning in feelings that they do not know how to handle. Acknowledging suffering, not being afraid to talk about pain without silencing reason either, which is also an important part of what is human. It is the basis of cognitive therapies, controlling emotions to preserve the maximum possible objectivity. Looking towards war right now can overwhelm us emotionally, but it can also help relativize our sometimes oversized situations or adverse circumstances.
8. Learn to break down, to divide big problems into smaller ones.
It is also a resource, as a more rational way of dealing with problems, to try to apply analysis to them. The emotion is global, overwhelming, a tangled ball, while reason can undo each knot, surrendering ourselves to the small goals that we talked about above, until everything calms down.
9. Learn to rest, to disconnect
We have not commented until now on the well-known theory of flow (the one that comes to affirm that happiness is in those things that make time fly by), although it is in much of what has been discussed so far. Nothing is as motivating as to keep us in flow 100 percent of the time, so even if we dedicate ourselves to what we like, rest is necessary. There is even talk lately of shorter working hours that affect higher labor performance. Also the variety, in itself, makes us stronger.
10. Learn to ask for help
Sometimes driven by the force of anti-weakness stereotypes, it is also the typical deficiency of the resilient, of those who have learned to manage themselves, to think that they will never need the support of others. We are social animals and sometimes the mere presence of others makes us feel better. In the case of Ukraine, welcoming them, showing ourselves present on networks, being there, are very powerful weapons for the strength they need to restore peace.
- Entry Man’s Search for Meaning, by Viktor Frankl, on Wikipedia.
Original, spanish: https://www.dreig.eu/caparazon/10-claves-resiliencia/
Youtube channel where I publish several resilience tips weekly: https://www.youtube.com/user/dreig9