Emotional Resiliency

Many blogs predict tough times ahead for society and tout the importance of “beans, bandaids, and bullets” in one’s preparations. Psychiatric findings based on examining and/or counseling patients who have survived disasters, (personal, military, social, natural) instead suggest that  the most important preparation is actually mental, emotional, and psychological preparedness.

There are many examples of people who have next to nothing to survive on successfully achieving survival -- often of out of nothing but thin air and the proper attitude. Whereas there are also plenty of cases of people who, having nearly everything by relative standards, fall to pieces when they lose their emotional self-regulation and their proper judgement along with it. In other words, you can have all the food, health, and self-defense stores you want, but without good mental hygiene and the proper thinking that goes along with it, all of your physical preparations can be meaningless. 

The information below is presented to help you develop some simple skills to manage your own emotional responses that might result when tough times hit, and to help yourself, your family, and your friends develop the resiliency that may help you fare better through such times.

The Impact of Stress

Traumatic events -- job loss, injury, death of a loved one, divorce, financial loss, crime, and societal upheaval, to name just a few -- have an impact on body, mind, and spirit.  When we human beings experience such events, it releases a pharmacy of stress hormones and other chemicals within our bodies.  This frequently manifests as a set of physical reactions. We can often begin to experience stomachaches, headaches, fatigue, dizziness, trouble sleeping, pain, and changes in appetite.  It is not related to a disease, infection, or injury, but to the body’s stress response.

Stressed humans also commonly experience cognitive or thinking challenges such as trouble making decisions, difficulty with remembering things, trouble concentrating, and recurring thoughts about what has happened and what we’ve witnessed. 

And our behaviors and emotions can change due to the stress we’ve undergone, making us more likely to be irritable or aggressive, cry more often, withdraw from our loved ones, feel terribly guilty or depressed, feel panic, engage in more risky behaviors, or “self medicate” with drugs or alcohol. 

We may experience a change in our relationship towards our faith, becoming angry over what has happened, losing interest in prayer, or avoiding worship settings and rituals that were formerly very important to our spiritual lives.  The opposite may also happen, where there may be a renewal in faith life following a terrible loss.

Following a major disaster, many people will have lost loved ones but be unable to access the services and rituals that would typically help them through the grieving process.  For example, mortuary services and funerals may not be possible in the events of mass casualties, civil breakdown, or pandemic diseases.  Community support may be limited because so many have experienced deaths in their own families and are unable to reach out and help others.  This may lead to bereavement complications and depression.

Younger people are perhaps most at risk in stressful situations, particularly when they have seen their parents be stressed by the same situation. Children may regress in their development, acting much younger than their age.  They may begin to wet the bed, play like a younger child, or have trouble being able to separate from their parents or loved ones.  Nightmares are common.  In young children, you may see repetitive and obsessive play as they re-enact the event(s) they have experienced.  This is how a young child attempts to understand the event and regain some sense of control. 

Not uncommonly, older folks often actually do better under stress than others, possibly due to their life experiences. Some have termed this “stress inoculation.”  The elderly can provide wisdom from their perspectives as well as information from their life experiences.  On the other hand, seniors who have some dementia may become very agitated and confused if away from familiar settings and routines.

Individuals with pre-existing mental health issues such as anxiety, depression or psychosis may of course decompensate tremendously.  Without the access to needed care and appropriate medication, patients with significant psychological disorders can require much help from those around them in more trying times.   Individuals with mental disabilities, such as developmental delays or head injuries, may experience confusion, fear, and disorientation. 

Developing Emotional Resilience

Now let's focus on how it can be under our power, to some degree, to stack the odds in favor of the more positive outcomes for ourselves and our loved ones.

Many people think that psychological trauma necessarily results from experiencing a disaster. It may surprise some to know that research shows that the most common response to the trauma of a major disaster is not Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (“PTSD”), but actually improved stress tolerance and strength --- what we call ‘resiliency’ --- and growth.  People are pretty good at overcoming bad things without any help from professional counselors or other mental health types. 

Resiliency to stress has actually been well studied. We now know what people look like who will tolerate stress well and with resiliency.  Developing emotional resiliency is largely based around installing some of these “protective factors” into your own and your loved ones’ lives. Some of these factors are:

Those who exibit resiliency have a support system of family and friends who can share in the struggle.

Human beings are innately social creatures.  We are designed to live in community with others.  The lone wolf, living off the land all by himself, rarely thrives sustainably.  Following disastrous events, people who have community support, friends and family, comrades, are more likely to survive.  And survive well. It is well proven that groups of humans are more effective than individuals in identifying resources, sharing work, and in defense against outside forces.

Those who exhibit resiliency have spiritual practices which help them to find meaning and comfort even in hard times.

Practicing and studying your faith now will increase the level of comfort in a survival situation. Having a belief in a higher power can give people strength when all seems lost and will provide the hope needed to make life feel safe and secure. Get yourself right in whichever religious tradition you subscribe to.

There is an old saying that goes “there are no atheists in foxholes”.  It may be true that you can suddenly discover your maker in tough times.  However, preparing for tough times is enhanced when your prayer, study, worship, and charitable practices are a core part of who you already are. 

Those who exhibit resiliency tend to have a mind-set of assuming they have control over their lives and decisions, vs. being at the mercy of disastrous events, or of others’ control.

We’ve all known people are quick to panic, tend to see the worst possible outcomes, magnify the impact, fail to see the good portions of any event.  Those folks generally suck all the energy out of their companions and are not useful when the SHTF.  Worse yet, they are at much-increased risk for acting on impulse, irrationally -- and often unsafely.

Contrarily, those who adopt a focus on what they CAN do to affect the outcome of a given negative situation are the ones who consistently have better outcomes. In nearly every event, even in a worst-case scenario, there is almost always some way to mitigate. Human beings who see this and make efforts in this regard fare vastly better psychologically than those who assume that the situation is hopeless and that they have no control. This is even true when the efforts of those who try to effect some control have no significant success. In other words, even if your actions to effect control have no impact, your efforts still instill your psyche (and probably the psyches of those around you) with some positivity and resiliency to later psychological fallout.

You can cultivate this thinking in yourself; you don’t have to be born with it. This is probably best done now, in advance of future shocks, with the help of a skilled mental health professional like a psychiatrist, psychologist, or social worker. Make an appointment with one, and share with them your improved ‘mental hygiene’ goals such as above. Not all mental health professionals will understand such goals. If they don’t, move on to find one who does. They are out there. But if not, there are still things you can do on your own.

For instance:

  • Learn to recognize when you are making “thinking errors” that may negatively influence your ability to find control. These amount largely to glass-is-half-empty thinking, as you’ll see. For instance, magnifying  -- some call this ‘catastrophizing’ -- turns a problem into a disaster. One way to counter such thinking is to ask yourself, "What is truly the worst case scenario with this event?” and then counter that thought with, “And what can I do if that happens?”  In nearly every event, again, there will be some way to mitigate.
 Another related possibility is ‘negative bias’ thinking. A negative bias causes us to fail to see the possible positive outcome to a situation or decision, thereby narrowing options.  Listing pros and cons and forcing the numbers to be equal can be a good exercise in learning how to counter your bias.
  • Cultivate an “outside of the box” thinking style by asking “and what else could we do?” over and over, and using brainstorming techniques. In brainstorming, nothing is off the table initially.  There are no stupid ideas.  This allows interesting and creative solutions to pop up. And the point, again, is the process of seizing, or attempting to seize, some control over a negative situation. Even in an ultimately unsuccessful attempt, you are ensuring an improved psychological outcome for you. And probably many of those around you. It's much better than what would result from assuming helplessness.

Additional considerations for improving your emotional & psychological odds

There are plenty of reasons to worry in our world.  That’s why we try to prepare ourselves for some bad eventualities.  Preparing is different from worrying. Preparation of the mind, body, and local resources give us a feeling of security and reduces our anxiety. Remind yourself of the preparations you HAVE made. Focus on the positive.

If you find you have the same negative thought over and over, it helps to literally say “stop!” to yourself. Other interventions include putting a rubber band on your wrist and snapping it, as a way of reminding yourself to stop such thinking. Or simply find ways to distract yourself. These are examples of ‘thought stopping’ techniques often taught by mental health professionals. Counter irrational beliefs as soon as they pop into your mind. We all would do things differently, had we known then what we know now, but that is the nature of our human existence. We do the best we can with what we know at the time. No one can ask for more than that. 
Do not allow yourself to play the (past tense) “what-if” game.

We have to remember to ask ourselves one question when stuck in a bad situation: “If I died tomorrow would this have been worth getting upset over?” If the answer is no, then take a deep breath and move on.

Learn some ways to self-calm so that the thinking part of your brain is more able to work. When we become too scared, the lower sections of our brains take over.  Those are the ones useful for “flight or fight”. However, when those parts of our brain are too activated, the thinking/planning/judgment part of our brain isn’t able to work.

Meditation is a great example of something that anybody can learn that allows you to sit at the control panel of your brain, and learn to turn down the ‘worry’ knob and the ‘stress’ knob.

Alternatively, learning simple breathing techniques allows us to be more centered so that we can figure things out better.  Most qualified mental health professionals can train you in this, but it is essentially training yourself to focus on your breathing, instead of your thoughts. Visualizing yourself breathing in white, positive energy, and breathing out black smoke (representative of the stress you are ‘exhaling’) is one common bit of imagery that often works. What reliably results from focusing the mind on your breathing is a relaxation response.

Alternatively, finding a calming thought and repeating it in our heads, or out loud, can help.

Physical activity works for many. The benefits of vigorous daily exercise on the mind --- particularly for stress control --- are now very research-proven and cannot be overstated. The same is true for yoga, tai-chi, etc.

In groups, create chore lists on rotating schedules so that people do not get burned out doing the same thing over and over again.

Play games. Have fun. It is important to have social interaction during trying times. Play games like “I Spy” or make up riddles. Keep the mind occupied so that it does not wander into depression or anxiety. Distraction is a frequently helpful mental health intervention.

Sleep. This is one of the most crucially important components in your mental health armamentarium. If you are running a security detail during a time of crisis, make sure that the person appointed to security gets relieved and has a few days off to relax.

Make social connections. Again, we humans are social animals. We are wired for it. If possible, make social connections with like-minded individuals and groups (which you may have done in the preparation stage). Social support systems are necessary in disaster situations. However, stay guarded against situations that may jeopardize your security.

Engage in spiritual activities. Pray. Make peace with yourself, your make,r and/or the role you see for yourself in the universe.

It would be silly to believe that you will quickly recover from a traumatic event, so do not expect too much progress too soon. Do not rush the process.

An important one, in the acute setting: Let it out. If the crisis was bad, you may have suffered significant trauma. Unfortunately there is no magic fix to dealing with guilt and grief. We have emotions for a reason and need to allow ourselves time to go through the grieving process after tragedy. Emotions need expressing. Allow for yourself to feel the emotions and to be sad.

Do not dwell on what you could have done, but focus on your successes and the fact that you have made it as far as you have. Stay upbeat about the future and the difference you will be able to make.

Do the best you can to relive the traumatic images over and over. Allow yourself to visualize them as a life-sized picture in your mind, but then shrink them down until the images are very small. Then visualize them being filed away in your mind.

Create a tribute to any who you may have lost, if the times have been that disastrous, so that you can remember them and celebrate their lives. Take solace in your faith that they are in a better place. Do not allow the question of why they are gone, but instead ask how they lived. Use their memory to create in you a better self.

If suicidal thoughts enter your mind, remind yourself how you have survived thus far and the irony that you would take your own life after preparing to live for so long.

Talk to friends and family about your emotions. Let yourself express how you feel. By not doing so, you risk making yourself emotionally unstable. If you experience anger, sadness, violent outbursts, sleeplessness, nightmares, or other similar symptoms, make sure that you keep talking to others and keep confronting irrational beliefs and feelings of worthlessness or guilt.

In summary, there are a number of concrete actions you can take to improve your emotional and psychological resiliency. You have the power and choice which to take (if any). You are not at the mercy of fate.

If the developments predicted by the Crash Course come to pass, we may be in for a rough road. But in general, human beings are remarkably resilient survivors. It may never be the same as it was before, but you can grow from any tragedy. Keep the faith and finish the race.

With this, and attention to some of the above, you should be able to stack the odds in favor of emerging psychologically and emotionally intact, if not with some growth and added strength.  

Disclaimer:  This text is not meant to substitute for, replace, or amend proper psychiatric or psychological evaluation or treatment. All individuals who believe they may need psychological treatment are strongly encouraged to seek assistance from appropriately licensed mental health professionals. This advice is not provided for any reason other than informational purposes and is not intended for personal implementation except in the absolute absence of any other form of mental health assistance.

18 Comments

ScubaRoo's picture
ScubaRoo
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Religion

Great article. Incredibly useful.

Quite surprised to see mention of religion and what appears to be the promotion of belief in a creator. This is a subject Chris normally steers well clear of.

The shock of any new paradigm understandably leads to questions about other previously held views. This is entirely natural, yes it can be unsettling but we continue in life to reevaluate our own personal model of the world and universe around us based on evidence and scientific facts.

Watched "The Grey" last night with Liam Neeson, v good survival movie where he experiences traumatic events whilst dealing with sad memories of a lost loved one. Also shows struggle with fellow survivors and his own views on the concept of a creator/deity. Although a work of fiction it shows how false beliefs can prove counter productive to mental strength for positive attitude to survive & thrive.

And to paraphrase the "no atheists in a fox hole". His character has evolved beyond belief in a God and is strong fighting for his survival in a Wolves den!

pinecarr's picture
pinecarr
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Excellent article on building emotional resiliency!

What an excellent article!  Thank you for providing such a useful, comrephensive overview of techniques for strengthening emotional resiliency.  I have struggled with this when going through various rough-patches in my life, and have come to appreciate the power and value of many of these suggestions.  A network of friends and family is probably the thing that has made the biggest difference to me when going through tough times. But I have also learned and practiced many cognitive techniques to help me pull my head out of the gutter. - I love Martin Seligman's work on "Learned Optimism".  I swear by the benefits of exercise (now if I'd only do it!), and am also a firm believer in "pet therapy'; nothing beats a dog for unconditional love!  And laughter, even at ourselves and the difficult situations we find ourselves in, really is good medicine.

Full Moon's picture
Full Moon
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music can be such an emotional help

http://www.yout //www.youtube.com/watch?v=uMrdQaN0APE     For the Christians  here .  No offense to anyone else . 

ScubaRoo's picture
ScubaRoo
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Posts: 34
Finding Peace through evidence based reasoning

Hi,

Really no offence taken, and I certainly understand the role a central regular gathering place such as a church can offer a community and those in need to believe in a father figure/protector.

Agreed friends and family are a source of strength.

Also being grateful for being alive and experiencing the natural wonders of the world that science has explained is also helpful.

Peace to all, however you find or interpret it.

Cheers

SR.

ScubaRoo's picture
ScubaRoo
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Music

Sounds of the Universe

Peace - Depeche Mode.
http://tinyurl.com/Peace-DM.

The lead singer (Dave Gahan) has lived through some tough times..
see under Personal Life
http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dave_Gahan#section_4

herewego's picture
herewego
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singing

Music-making belongs on the list of activities that calm and strengthen our nervous systems.  I'm not even a musician, but singing taps me very deeply and quickly into strong parts of my personality like the capacity for appreciation, love and acceptance of what is - big-picture, existential stuff.  Singing, like listening to music, also brings emotions that have not been acknowledged in every day life up to the surface where they can be experienced and completed with.  Even the simple singing I do seems to be an avenue to awareness and presence.  I'm guessing for a "real" musician the positive effects of music-making must be even stronger.  I'm curious about the community-building power of making music together.  Any musicians or choir members care to comment?

Susan 

Dogs_In_A_Pile's picture
Dogs_In_A_Pile
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Not sure what you mean by

Not sure what you mean by "real" musician.....

As to community building?  Every Friday night from Memorial Day until it gets too cold in October, schedule allowing, I head up to the local Farmer's Market with my guitar and mandolin and join in one of the numerous picking circles and we play until we feel like stopping.  Sometimes it's bluegrass, sometimes gospel, sometimes Grateful Dead (wonder where that comes from wink) - a little bit of everything.  Anyone and everyone is welcome to join.  No one is judged, if you want a solo take one, if you are content playing rhythm, go for it.

What's been interesting to experience is running into some of these guys and gals while out and about.  You recognize the face, and when you both figure it out, it's like running into a long lost friend.  Funny how a lot of them are farmers who live fairly close.  Even better when you show up at their farm to pick strawberries or blueberries and your total bill is a bit light for the amount of fruit you picked.....

I kind of like cultivating those relationships.....

treemagnet's picture
treemagnet
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The Stockdale Paradox

www.motivation-for-dreamers.com/optimists.html

First check out that site and read about the prisoners of war/Hanoi Hilton.

Admiral Stockdale and the "Stockdale paradox" to me, are most relevant.  I think to many realists get pigeon-holed as being negative.  Myself being one of those people I never got it - you can't run a business these days without hope, understanding, and generally positive attributes (unless your a bankster).  The optimists died.  Without a healthy dose of realism, they were the first to go.  Period.  I know folks who think of themselves as positive but whose lives can be disrupted by somewhat minor setbacks.  I think many optimists just don't get it - or their optimism is based on being conditioned by thier needs always being met, gov't help, store shelves always full, etc.  I think running a small business has been a real blessing for my prepping - my revenue/costs/personnel have dramatic swings.  Pillars of expectations can and have cracked or just come down - and you just adapt and take it in stride - year after year.  Perhaps this is meaningless to you, work for me can be a daily mental prepping refresher.  So, I guess the take away is "get real".  And lets not bash a good gin/tonic too!  Thanks.

Travlin's picture
Travlin
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Good advice

treemagnet's link wrote:

The Admiral’s insight has come to be known as the Stockdale Paradox: “Retain faith that you will prevail in the end, regardless of the difficulties AND at the same time, confront the most brutal facts of your current reality, whatever they might be.”

Treemagnet

That is very good advice.  Optimism must be balanced by realism for best results.

Travlin

Wendy S. Delmater's picture
Wendy S. Delmater
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optimism vs pessimism

I hear you, treemagnet. Reminds me of people asking me, "Are you optimistic about construction?" And I'd reply, "You have to be optimistic to be in construction!" Despite the nasty economy I started my own engineering consulting business last year, and so far it is making a small profit. At 50+ years old I was facing competition from younger folks. I was a realist and decided to make my own job. Bashing my head against the Help Wanted Ads would not change the situation, so I thought ouside the box.

We preppers are doing the same thing in a macrocosm. Bashing our heads against the old economy will not bring it back. It's a funciton of emotional resiliency to admit that things will never "get back to normal."

To those who are living a fantasy we who are transitioning to a sustainable lifestyle are negative. To those who want to "hunker in a bunker" we are too optimistic. I think there is a better way to describe us. We're Realists.

Fantasies are dangerous and, as a rule, unsustainable. And if you stop to think about it, bunkers are not only no fun; they're not sustainable either.

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Amanda Witman
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Posts: 409
herewego wrote: Music-making

herewego wrote:

Music-making belongs on the list of activities that calm and strengthen our nervous systems.  I'm not even a musician, but singing taps me very deeply and quickly into strong parts of my personality like the capacity for appreciation, love and acceptance of what is - big-picture, existential stuff.  Singing, like listening to music, also brings emotions that have not been acknowledged in every day life up to the surface where they can be experienced and completed with.  Even the simple singing I do seems to be an avenue to awareness and presence.  I'm guessing for a "real" musician the positive effects of music-making must be even stronger.  I'm curious about the community-building power of making music together.  Any musicians or choir members care to comment?

Susan 

I can speak for the community-building power of music if it is approached in an inclusive way.  In my experience, classical does not lend itself as well to community-building as certain types of traditional music (bluegrass jam, Irish sessions, pub sings) and jazz.  I am sure there are other genres that provide opportunity as well.

I have been actively involved in building the "beginner/intermediate-level" traditional music community in my area for the past few years.  Prior to that, there seemed to be a lot of professionals and a lot of "closet" musicians, with little opportunity for the casual learners to get together and make music.  So we started a "slow to medium" jam for Irish, Quebecois, and traditional New England music, some local pros started entry-level classes encouraging informal group playing, and we started a monthly pub sing at the local brewery.  There are a few local dances with "all-comers" band opportunities.  Many of the players stumbled into this scene after years of not playing music.  I'm also involved in a loose group of friends and neighbors who have an informal monthly potluck "sing" out of the book Rise Up Singing.  In the case of the jams and sings, it doesn't even take a pro to lead it -- just someone who is a motivated, confident leader with a basic idea of how to gently facilitate so that a group mostly runs itself. 

All of these bring opportunities for relationship-building, sharing, social interaction, mentoring, learning, community growth, creative expression, and entertainment.  The jams/sessions/sings are free, which is key in a struggling economy.  I think the key of our success in this case has also been that our gatherings are inclusive and welcoming -- they have structure, but people quietly mentor interested new folks so they understand and can fit in most easily.

I've personally gone through very difficult times over the past year and a half, and the bulk of my support has come from people I've met through the local music community.  And I have had the opportunity to reciprocate with others when they've struggled.  I never imagined I would be a part of such a rich resource.

That all speaks to the stress-busting support a community can provide, and how to build that from the ground up using music as a focus, and yet music has been known and proven to be a stress-reducer even without the community effects.  As for that, I personally have found that music transports me away from my worries and gives me a break and a lift when I need it.

pinecarr's picture
pinecarr
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Posts: 1567
Optimistic vs Pessimistic thinking styles vs ways of being

treemagnet wrote:

Admiral Stockdale and the "Stockdale paradox" to me, are most relevant.  I think to many realists get pigeon-holed as being negative.  Myself being one of those people I never got it - you can't run a business these days without hope, understanding, and generally positive attributes (unless your a bankster).  The optimists died.  Without a healthy dose of realism, they were the first to go.  Period.  I know folks who think of themselves as positive but whose lives can be disrupted by somewhat minor setbacks.  I think many optimists just don't get it - or their optimism is based on being conditioned by thier needs always being met, gov't help, store shelves always full, etc.  I think running a small business has been a real blessing for my prepping - my revenue/costs/personnel have dramatic swings.  Pillars of expectations can and have cracked or just come down - and you just adapt and take it in stride - year after year.  Perhaps this is meaningless to you, work for me can be a daily mental prepping refresher.  So, I guess the take away is "get real".

(plus I agree with the gin and tonic part!:)

Safewrite wrote:

To those who are living a fantasy we who are transitioning to a sustainable lifestyle are negative. To those who want to "hunker in a bunker" we are too optimistic. I think there is a better way to describe us. We're Realists.

Fantasies are dangerous and, as a rule, unsustainable. And if you stop to think about it, bunkers are not only no fun; they're not sustainable either.

I very much agree with what treemagnet and Safewrite wrote. I have experienced similar (mis-)labeling  as a pessimist, simply because I was open minded, realistic and practical enough to make some logical conclusions about what's going on, where it is heading, and to prepare accordingly.  So I do agree with the discussion in terms of "being" an optimist, pessimist, or (maybe more accurately for us) a realist.

So how does that jive with my prior recommendation of "learned optimism" as a way to promote emotional resiliency?  The distinction, I think, is when you are talking about optimism vs pessimism in terms of "explanatory thinking styles" vs a larger, more comprehensive descriptor of a person or their outlook on life.  Let me explain.

In Seligman's terms (paraphrasing based on memory), a pessimistic thinking style is one in which you interpret events as being personal, pervasive and permanent.  So, for example, maybe a person is coming out of the house on a hot summer day with an ice cold bottle of his favorite beer.  He trips on a broken step and drops the beer.  The bottle breaks, and beer splashes all over him.  

His automatic thought in response to the event is: I'm such an idiot!!  I can never do anything right!!

His automatic feeling in response to that thought may be feeling depressed and bad about himself.  -Not good from the perspective of emotional resiliency!

Seligman describes thoughts like this as examples of a "pessimistic" thinking style, because the person interpretted the event in terms that characterized it as being personal ("I'm such an idiot! I can never..."), pervasive (making the very broad interpretation of being an idiot) and permanent ("I can never do anything right!")

Alternatively (again paraphrasing from memory), one can learn to adopt a more optimistic thinking style in which one interprets such things in terms that are more impersonal, specific (limited in scope) and temporary.  So re-interpretting the example one might think: "Crap, my bottle of beer broke!  i guess that step needs to be fixed!  Well, guess I'll go wash off and get another beer out of the frig!"  Note that in this case, he does not equate breaking the beer with a flaw in his character (the explanation for the cause, a broken step, is impersonal), the event is specific (the loss one bottle of beer), and the outcome is temporary (resolved by washing off and getting a new beer).   -I don't know if that's the best example, but hopefully it makes the point.

So what Seligman learned was that people who had a pessimistic explanatory thinking style (interpretting things negatively, and as permanent, pervasive and personal) were more likely to be depressed than those who interpretted events with an optimistic thinking style (temporary, specific and impersonal).  

I know this is one of a couple of cognitive techniques that I found to be very powerful in helping me to become more consious of my thoughts and explanatory thinking style, and of how my thoughts and explanatory thinking style could affect the way I feel.  By journaling my thoughts/feelings when I "felt bad", I learned to identify and change pessimistic thinking habits, and to develop a healthier, more emotionally resilient thinking style.

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BeccaLeigh
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don't become overwhelmed

I suffer from major deppressive disorder, ADHD, anxiety and PTSD (which actully encompasses the majority of my symptoms) and before I had educated myself on targeting exactly where my problems originated, I realized that anytime I thought into the future or tried to come up with long-term resolutions, I became completely anxious and overwhelmed.  I had to teach myself to literally live one day at a time.  I stopped allowing myself to plan ahead and instead kept my focus on the present.  This is not something that can help shortly after tragedies and traumatic experiences, but is meant to be temporary.  Slowly, your mind will start to take small steps such as thinking to the following week and eventually in the long-term.  You have to be selfish in your thinking and focus on what helps you most, what makes you happy and when you feel best about yourself.  For some people, setting small goals that can be accomplished within the day works until you gradually increase the time to reach your goals to the next week, month or year.  If it helps, make a list of things that are in your control, realistic and that you can easily access the tools you need to attain.

If you are a person of faith, never underestimate the power of prayer.  Do not pray that everything resolves itself, that is not a realistic request.  Instead, ask the Lord to give you the strength to prevail.  Know that He will not stop believing in your resilient abilities to overcome times of hardship.  Keep that in mind when you feel as if you are losing faith in yourself.  You are capable of much more than you know.  

You never know how strong you are until being strong is the only option you have!!

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maxnigh
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Posts: 5
Music and Living

Glad to see comments about music and how it fits into their lives. It fits in mine, and I  imagine  it fits in many more , who made no  mention of it. Gahndi is a leader in many lives.

Joshua Myrvaagnes's picture
Joshua Myrvaagnes
Status: Member (Offline)
Joined: Aug 14 2013
Posts: 2
Deliberately structured thinking--de Bono, Wright

Wonderful comments and a great focus for an article.  It's an illusion that the material is the only thing needing to be addressed in this transition time; even in CERT (emergency preparedness training) they have a day of focus on psychological preparation--people act out of emotion, so it's relevant no matter how rational it might seem to deny this.

I want to add in a piece here--rather than simply saying "cultivate a habit of outside-the-box thinking" tehre's the option of using "lateral thinking"--deliberately creative thinking--where instead of waiting for the proverbial Newton's apple to fall on your head, you shake the tree and have lots of apples fall.  Each of them will bring some new insight, and some of those insights will prove useful, even if many don't.  This is one of several kinds of thinking we can do.

Deliberately structured thinking is really important.  Just having a lot of facts won't help, if teh interpretation of those facts is muddied.

psychological resilience is one piece of things; but you can go above resilience (which is sort of negatively focused) to building on strengths and raising emotional energy.  Thinking is free; doing it the hard way is no less costly than doing it the easy way.  So you might as well learn some basic tools of structing thinking, based on research and a lot of practical experience--Edward de Bono, MD., designed simple tools for thinking (the Six Thinking hats) used by businesspeople, diplomats, miners in coal mines, schoolchildren, Marxists.  The idea is to tdo one kidn of thinking at a time, instead of having them jumbled together or arguing against one another: emotion (red hat); fact (white hat); alternative interpretation/creative thinking (green); what's right/positives (yellow); what's wrong/negatives/dangers (black); which hat now?/meta-process (blue--this is the overview hat, this is assesing the procedure so far, how has my/our thinking session been going, where do we go next?).  Emotion is important in this system; it's not shortchanged, and it's given the ultimate deciding force (which it should be).  But it is not permitted to distort the facts or to distort the non-facts--the things we don't know yet that we might "feel" like we know based on habitual, knee-jerk thoughts and perceptions). 

I think this tool is EXTREMELY helpful and will feel easily appealing to anyone who is awake and wants to make the best use of their biggest resource--their thinking--in this time.  It will take you about an hour max to learn the system, and a bit of practice and maybe some support will make it habitual.  Very liberating, and can help us all work together more as a team and be less seemingly at odds when there are differences of perception or tastes.  

Good  deliberate thinking means I can have my emotional needs and desires met MORE than if I thought by default, or thought as hurriedly as possible, or as "hard" as possible.  I think this is a wonderful tool for emotional resilience and going above zero.  I think this also gives more clarity about what choices we want to make in our thinking--not committing whole-cloth to either optimism or pessimisim or realism or fantasy or even balance, but doing them each one at a time with a clear distinction.  The adversarialism only creps up when one person in a discussion is "wearing" one hat and arguing against antoher wearing another hat.  And when people cling rigidly to their favorite hat.  The hats can come on and off; this takes teh ego out of the picture (says de Bono). 

It's very low cost to try this and the potential rewards are huge; it's definitely changed how I habitually view the world and respond to it.

Thanks for reading, and thanks to Chris for posting this article and for all who make this site happen!  

Joshua Myrvaagnes's picture
Joshua Myrvaagnes
Status: Member (Offline)
Joined: Aug 14 2013
Posts: 2
oops-and Kurt and Patricia Wright

BReaking the Rules--its another book on deliberately structured thinking, and having a ten-year vision.  It insists on the importance of thinking ideally (green hat) first, separate from thinking realistically.  With so much information and counterinformation today, it's really helpful to have a vision.  It also goes into more depth of the Waht's right? thinking, and points out that, when wholly disconnected from the intuitive/emotional brain, the analytical brain cannot distinguish between fact and fiction. 

billturner3719's picture
billturner3719
Status: Member (Offline)
Joined: Jun 27 2012
Posts: 2
Sharing a great TED talks on stress, connection, & resiliency

This came up in my church service and my LinkedIn inbox, so I trusted that I needed to hear it.  

A neuroscientist's change of heart - after spending decades warning of the physical impacts of stress upon health, she's changed her view to incorporate the science that an individual's response to stress determines the health impact.

Of particular note:

  • Impact of one's beliefs upon the physiological response to stress
  • Oxytocin's release during stress promotes connection, which in turn creates resiliency

Hope you find this helpful...

http://www.ted.com/talks/kelly_mcgonigal_how_to_make_stress_your_friend.html?goback=%2Egde_3819128_member_271964933#%21

Cheers,

Bill

pinecarr's picture
pinecarr
Status: Diamond Member (Offline)
Joined: Apr 13 2008
Posts: 1567
"Survival Psychology"

Here's a good article on the type of emotional resiliency needed to survive life-threatening situations:

http://graywolfsurvival.com/3222/change-attitude-wont-survive-survival-psychology/

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