IT DOES NOT MATTER. . .
it really doesn’t matter how long you’ve lived
YOU HAVE LIVED
it’s impossible for you
NOT TO HAVE
PTSD. . .
To put it even more directly,
IF YOU HAVE A PULSE
YOU HAVE PTSD
. . .that’s the thought that hit me
between the eyes
and right straight to the middle of my brain
as I was sitting in Presentation given by a Social Worker
from the VA Hospital in Cleveland, OH
when he stated,
“If you have had boots on the ground, you are suffering from PTSD.”
and the thought exploded inside of me
‘we all have boots on the ground
which soils a seed of pain’
that pesters and haunts us
THE RESILIENCE FACTOR
and this once again
got plowed into me again when I read a recent
New York Times Article by Eilene Zimmerman,
who is author of the memoir
“Smacked: A Story of White-Collar Ambition, Addiction and Tragedy.”
with the message of
because of our previous
it’s prepared us for this current
TOUGH TIME. . .
It turns out, the article states, that the awful times in our lives have been good training for a pandemic, for political and social upheaval, for economic and financial uncertainty. These experiences have taught us that we never really know what’s going to happen next. We can plan as best we can, but now we’re far more able to pivot our thinking. Especially when it doesn’t always feel like it, we have the capacity to cope with more of life’s unexpected slings and arrows, to accept the difficulties we face and keep going, even though it can be hard and rarely volunteered for. . . .
How we navigate a crisis or traumatic event (and the coronavirus has many characteristics of trauma because it is unpredictable and uncontrollable) depends, in large part, on how resilient we are. Resilience is the ability to recover from difficult experiences and setbacks, to adapt, move forward and sometimes even experience growth.
Here’s the rub: An individual’s resilience is dictated by a combination of genetics, personal history, environment and situational context. So far, research has found the genetic part to be relatively small.More from ResilienceIn a Crisis, We Can Learn From Trauma TherapyJune 15, 2020
“The way I think about it is that there are temperamental or personality characteristics that are genetically influenced, like risk-taking, or whether you’re an introvert or extrovert,” said Karestan Koenen, professor of psychiatric epidemiology at Harvard’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health.
Professor Koenen studies how genes shape our risk of post-traumatic stress disorder. “We all know people that are just very even-tempered,” she said. “Some of that is simply how we’re built physiologically.” Yet it isn’t true that some people are born more resilient than others, said Professor Koenen, “That’s because almost any trait can be a positive or negative, depending on the situation.”
Far more important, it seems, is an individual’s history.
The most significant determinant of resilience — noted in nearly every review or study of resilience in the last 50 years — is the quality of our close personal relationships, especially with parents and primary caregivers. Early attachments to parents play a crucial, lifelong role in human adaptation.
“How loved you felt as a child is a great predictor of how you manage all kinds of difficult situations later in life,” said Bessel van der Kolk, a professor of psychiatry at Boston University School of Medicine who has been researching post-traumatic stress since the 1970s. He is the founder of the Trauma Research Foundation in Boston.
Dr. van der Kolk said long-term studies showed that the first 20 years of life were especially critical. “Different traumas at different ages have their own impacts on our perceptions, interpretations and expectations; these early experiences sculpt the brain, because it is a use-dependent organ,” he said.
You can think of resilience as a set of skills that can be, and often is, learned. Part of the skill-building comes from exposure to very difficult — but manageable — experiences.
“Stress isn’t all bad,” said Steven M. Southwick, professor emeritus of psychiatry, PTSD and Resilience at Yale University School of Medicine and co-author of the book “Resilience: The Science of Mastering Life’s Greatest Challenges.” If you can cope today with all that’s happening in the world around you, Dr. Southwick said, “then when you are on the other side of it, you’ll be stronger.”
How we cope depends on what is in our resilience toolbox. For some people it might be filled with drugs. For others it can be drinking, overeating, gambling, shopping. But these don’t promote resilience.
Instead, the tools common to resilient people are optimism (that is also realistic), a moral compass, religious or spiritual beliefs, cognitive and emotional flexibility, and social connectedness. The most resilient among us are people who generally don’t dwell on the negative, who look for opportunities that might exist even in the darkest times. During a quarantine, for example, a resilient person might decide it is a good time to start a meditation practice, take an online course or learn to play guitar.
Research has shown that dedication to a worthy cause or a belief in something greater than oneself — religiously or spiritually — has a resilience-enhancing effect, as does the ability to be flexible in your thinking.
“Many, many resilient people learn to carefully accept what they can’t change about a situation and then ask themselves what they can actually change,” Dr. Southwick said. Conversely, banging your head against the wall and fretting endlessly about not being able to change things has the opposite effect, lessening your ability to cope.
Dr. Southwick has done many studies with former prisoners of war and has found that although they suffered profoundly, many eventually found new areas of growth and meaning in their lives.
“Each of us has to figure out what our particular challenges are and then determine how to get through them, at the current moment in time,” advised George Bonanno, a professor of clinical psychology and director of the Loss, Trauma, and Emotion Lab at Columbia University Teachers College. The good news, he said, is that most of us will. Professor Bonanno’s lab reviewed 67 studies of people who experienced all kinds of traumatic events. “I’m talking mass shootings, hurricanes, spinal cord injuries, things like that,” he said. “And two-thirds were found to be resilient. Two-thirds were able to function very well in a short period of time.”
How to Build Resilience
Interviews with large numbers of highly resilient individuals — those who have experienced a great deal of adversity and have come through it successfully — show they share the following characteristics.
- They have a positive, realistic outlook. They don’t dwell on negative information and instead look for opportunities in bleak situations, striving to find the positive within the negative.
- They have a moral compass. Highly resilient people have a solid sense of what they consider right and wrong, and it tends to guide their decisions.
- They have a belief in something greater than themselves. This is often found through religious or spiritual practices. The community support that comes from being part of a religion also enhances resilience.
- They are altruistic; they have a concern for others and a degree of selflessness. They are often dedicated to causes they find meaningful and that give them a sense of purpose.
- They accept what they cannot change and focus energy on what they can change. Dr. Southwick says resilient people reappraise a difficult situation and look for meaningful opportunities within it.
- They have a mission, a meaning, a purpose. Feeling committed to a meaningful mission in life gives them courage and strength.
- They have a social support system, and they support others. “Very few resilient people,” said Dr. Southwick, “go it alone.”
So. . .
how do we bring
FACE TO MIRROR
and make things
C L E A R E R
less blurry. . .
Could it be as easy as
LOOKING BEYOND OURSELVES
FOCUSING MORE ON OTHERS
REFINING OUR CARING CATALYST SKILLS. . . ?
How about we prove