Your Resilience Can Save Your Life: The Power of Transforming Your Pain into Productivity
I listen to a podcast by Elizabeth Gilbert called Magic Lessons. In it, Liz powerfully and insightfully walks creatives (writers, dancers, artists and the like) through their worst possible blocks and into the brave world of free creation that lies beyond. I love this podcast because it's full of truth-bursts (a wha?) A 'truth-burst' is the term I use to refer to those insanely profound one-liners and soul-searching questions that hit straight at the core of life. Truth-bursts are sticky statements that tend to be remembered as personal mantras long after they're spoken. If you need inspiration, I highly recommend this podcast.
Anywho, the podcast I listened to today featured a terrified spoken-word poet. This poet wanted nothing more than to take her poetry to the next level by attending slams and sending her work for publication. But she was completely stuck. She was so paralyzed by the idea of rejection that she simply did nothing at all. The poet admitted, "If I am rejected, then the world is telling me I am not a poet. And if I'm not a poet, then who am I?"
Yikes. I stopped in my tracks. If I'm not (fill in the blank), then who am I?
This statement stuck to my brain like the crazy-to-apply wallpaper in my daughter's bedroom (why did I think wallpapering was a good idea? who does this themselves? I digress). I wondered: what was my version of that statement? I wondered: what could other people's version of that statement be? And I pondered: how could this identity recognition be helpful to my clients?
If I am not this, then who am I?
What life raft are we clinging to that if it were to be deflated it would mean the proverbial end of us?
Hearbreak, Rejection, Loss. Shame.
Allowing ourselves to be exposed and vulnerable to these goes against our every grain; indeed, our brains are screaming to protect ourselves. But, as the podcast pointed out, when you take the chance and thrown yourself into the fire; that is, when you experience the worst thing imaginable, then only one of two things can happen:
1) The fire envelops you in its warmth or;
2) The fire burns you and the new life you are given has the potential to be so much better
Now, not everyone might agree with this. But that's where your level of ability to be resilient comes in. If you have resilience, then you will either allow yourself to experience challenges regularly and in the act feel embraced by life's gifts, or you will be completely burned and still seek to create a new and better life afterward.
Resilience is what allows us to soldier on despite hardship, resistance, or experienced injustice. This podcast made me want to write more about resilience because it is truly life saving; or rather, it's even more powerful because instead of saving that same life you had before, resilience allows for the birth of previously unknown possibilities.
Resilience does not mean that you combat bad events with sunshine and lollipops. It's not a band-aid. Rather, resilience is the grit to persevere in the face of adversity. It is the voice of reason you call on to transform negative experiences into invaluable information. It allows you to weave challenge into the narrative of your life story and create an ultimately more rich, productive, and enhanced story because of it.
Just to normalize for a second, too, for most people this response doesn't happen right away. Our emotions and brains respond to negative experiences with sadness, outrage, fear, anger, and other horrified feelings. We may retreat into our shell for a while. Get quiet. Fizzle out. Believe we aren't cut out of the right cloth or worthy. Or at worst, as I'll paraphrase Liz from the podcast, "everyone has had their share of lying in the fetal position on the bathroom floor."
But it's how you make sense of getting yourself back up and onward again that signifies your resilience.
So I urge you to examine where you've called on resilience in your life and how you use resilience to survive the worst.
I also urge you to examine the areas in your life that you aren't allowing or trusting your own resilience by protecting yourself from being hurt in the first place.
I see walls up protecting against enacting resilience in the first place all the time. If I had a penny for every time I hear, "I go out on dates four times a week but I just can't meet anyone." Well, this may be true, but what if we looked closely at where you might be avoiding pain? How might that be in the way of you showing your true self? Dating might seem like a light example, but trying to find love is a huge exercise in real vulnerability. And while this is just one example, all day every day we make choices not to be vulnerable in order to self-protect. It's so natural and it mostly goes unnoticed.
Of tackling life's difficulties, Brene Brown says "Keep your shadow in front of you."
(This is an example of a truth-burst to me.)
To me, that statement means: the darkness that's in your plain sight can't take you down. Awareness of your shame, pain, and fear can't hurt nearly as much as the shame, pain, and fear you don't see.
So, the next time something catastrophic happens, yes, you must curl into a ball on the bathroom floor. You must rage. You must wonder why, nurse your wounds, and wonder how you can go on. And the worst will happen. It's a guarantee and none of us are exempt. It's impossible to pain in this life. But the difference lies in how you meet it. Rise from the bathroom floor and hold on to what you know nurtures you while examining the new unknown. A new life life has been made possible by the incineration of your old life. You have an opportunity to allow yourself to go on, grow, and be incredibly, amazingly, and against-all-odds the better for it.
That is hearing the calling of possibility and answering. That is allowing your new life to be so much better than the life before it. That is resilience.
Lauren L. Drago, MSEd, LMHC, LPC is the founder of Lauren Drago Therapy in Old Saybrook, CT and in greater CT, NY & PA. She specializes in working with smart, insightful and capable women to overcome stress, anxiety, loss of identity, self-limiting beliefs, perfectionism, marriage strain, and the pressure of "trying to do it all." Lauren has a passion for helping others to achieve the happy, fulfilling, productive, and meaningful life they deserve by changing how they experience and understand their world. She believes that every woman can and should live out her personal definition of her own best life. Follow Lauren on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest. Call (860) 339-6515 for your free initial 15-minute consultation.