Seven Steps to Increased Emotional Resilience

By Paul Dunion | August 27, 2017

Being fully alive offers countless opportunities to exercise emotional resiliency. Life presents us with defeat, loss, suffering and ample chances to undergo a broken heart. An old definition of the word resilient is “to rebound”. We can begin by asking: Rebounding from what and to what?

When the weight of life crushes down on us, we easily succumb to despondency, anguish and despair. Emotional resiliency does not attempt to deny these experiences, but rather it is the ardent energy helping us to move back toward the light. Resiliency is the ability to recover from the sting of life, moving back in the direction of faith, trust and acceptance. The goal of resiliency is not to feel good, but to return to an abiding rapport with life.

Let’s look at seven steps that help increase emotional resiliency:

Step 1) Supporting Self-appreciation – When we take on the responsibility to do what you can to remember to appreciate yourself, you take some of the bite out of being defeated or making a mistake. Defeat becomes a reflection of our willingness to risk and an expression of your imperfect humanity.

Step 2) An Enriched Capacity for Forgiveness – There will be little chance to rebound if it remains very challenging to forgive others and ourselves. A colleague of mine offers a helpful intervention when I can’t find my way to forgive myself. She says, “Do you believe you should have been larger than the mistake you made?” Her question immediately reminds me that resisting forgiving myself likely reflects my aversion to simply being ordinary. When I am able to hold the value of being an ordinary person, I take at least one step in the direction of forgiving myself.

Jack Kornfield reminds us that forgiving others simply calls for giving up all hope of having a better past.  Again, it may be that in giving up all hope of having had a better past, you will likely accept the ordinariness of having had a checkered past. Remaining mindful of that kind of past simply reflecting the human condition.

Step 3) Feeling and Speaking Emotions – When emotions are not felt or spoken, you run a risk of: anger turning to shame,  while feeling hurt walls us off from love, and fear drives our choices. Repressed emotions make it very difficult to rebound from difficult times. You are either feeling the bite of shame separated from love, or fear garrisoning us against life. In either case, you’re stuck.

Step 4) Remaining Self-accountable – When we hold others accountable for our experiences, they and not we, hold the power to rebound from arduous times. We are self-accountable when we measure what happens to us as a result of our intensions and choices. As the authors of our experiences, we possess the power to recover, not get stuck in a victim’s orientation toward life.

Step 5) Attend To What’s In Your Control and Let Go of the Rest – Attempting to influence or change what’s out of our control depletes energy and cements our wills in place. There will be little or no capacity for mobility and rebounding. We remain pinned under quixotic visions of all we allegedly can do, removed from what’s real. There will be little or no capacity for mobility and rebounding. As we identify what’s out of our control and let it go, we free internal resources and enliven personal empowerment.

Step 6) Depersonalize Your Experience – The slings and arrows of life are not mostly happening to us or because of us. They are happening because you are on a deeply perilous journey. If you can accept life as mysterious, insecure and unpredictable, then you will be less likely to awfulize your life. You will free yourself from the shackles of victimization, flexing with more grace as strong, cold winds blow in your direction.

Step 7) Ask For Help – The journey is simply too big and unmanageable. You can’t walk this life alone. It will inevitably overwhelm you. The key is not to be compulsively self-reliant, but to develop a keen discernment regarding viable resources. Strength is not about how much you can do on your own. Strength is housing a sharp discretion that tells you which well is dry and which one is full. Strength is also about knowing how to receive genuine help, how to walk to and drink from an over-flowing well.

Learning to be emotionally resilient is made more difficult when our institutions are dishonest about the formidable nature of life. All formulas alluding to the right education, right religion or right occupation will not insolate us from the vulnerability of being alive. There will be no ultimate triumph over life as it constantly asserts its immensity and potency. Facing such forces as war, catastrophic illness, financial collapse, natural disasters, unplanned endings to significant relationships and death can leave us psychologically limping.

Without an emotional suppleness, we lose faith in life, in God and in ourselves. It may be naïve to think we can always find our way back to fully participating in life. Such as parents who experience the death of a child, unable to find their way back to life as they knew it. The hope is simply that we can most of the time recover gratitude for the gift of life.

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