"And thus, like the wounded oyster, he mends his shell with pearl."
- Ralph Waldo Emerson
Whoever said that life was meant to be easy? It never can be. The normal life cycle contains predictable periods of life disruption. For example, when we move from childhood to adolescence, everything we had previously known about the world goes through a jarring transformation. Definitions of other people change, our motives and interests change as we expand our range of social relationships.
Similar stages of disruption occur when we move into young adulthood, and then into a permanent relationship, possible parenting, middle age, and then retirement and ageing. These periods of transformation can induce potent emotional reactions such as depression, anxiety, loneliness, and anger. Those who lack resilience find these changes to be a struggle. Others welcome the changes and move through the transformations easily and naturally.
Other periods of disruption can be caused by unexpected events that turn life upside down. An automobile accident, an illness, the death of a loved one, divorce, national tragedies, acts of terrorism, war, natural disasters such as floods or hurricanes, the loss of employment, and financial upheavals can challenge our ability to cope. Any of these can become "make or break" situations, depending on the degree to which resilience comes into play.
We all have the capacity to reorganise our lives after a disruption and to achieve new levels of order and meaningfulness if we know how to activate our resilience.
In fact, in order to mature and be enriched, we need to experience life disruptions. In other words, life disruptions are not necessarily a bad thing because they help us to grow and to meet future challenges in our lives. During the depths of chaos we are vulnerable because we do not know what lies ahead - but as we learn and adapt during the chaos, we prepare ourselves to meet further stresses in the future.
How do we develop resilience?
Developing resilience depends on many factors. Those who are resilient have many of the following characteristics -
- A sense of hope and trust in the world
- The ability to tolerate pain and distressing emotions
- A meaningful system of support
- A sense of mastery and control over one`s destiny
- A wide range of interests and a sense of humor
So, which way do you want your life to go? What do you do when life kicks you in the face? Go down under or pick yourself up? It`s all in your hands, you know! All it requires is some steely resolve, some resilience. Go for it.