Just before Labor Day weekend I had the end-of-summer sads on my mind. I wasn't feeling it so much for myself, but for my son and for other people around me. (Sometimes I absorb other people's stress.) So I wrote about it for Lifehacker. And since resilience has been an ongoing project of mine, I went straight for that aspect. Dealing with a difficult transition requires resilience, doesn't it?
So what I learned from art therapist and professor Dr. Einat Metzl is that resilience isn't trait you either have or lack. It's a process we all have access to.
And that process isn't linear. It's kind of an ebb and flow, a fall and a rebound. Somehow you grow from whatever challenge or setback you experience. But of course you need something to help you grow. So what is that something? For Dr. Metzl, it's some sort of creative expression--yes, even if you don't consider yourself a creative person ("that's just a story you're telling yourself," Metzl says). Or it's a ritual. Putting yourself in a creative space helps you see your situation differently, and that's what helps you grow.
I've been listening to a seminar/podcast by meditation teacher Tara Brach about resilience. She says it's when your heart and mind are awakened, and you grow. And key to that is you retain a sense of locus operandi--you are the actor in your life. You're not taking the role of a passive victim. And you don't see a difficulty as a negative. You see it as an opportunity to grow.
Oh I know, many of us wish we had fewer opportunities for growth!
I connected this with some of the work I'm doing with an ADHD coach. She has been helping me with an exercise in which I try on new and different thoughts and feelings about certain challenges. We were talking about the times when I feel anxious about doing something, but I managed to do it anyway. How do I do that? I thought about it and realized that those are the times when I felt a sense of agency even though I couldn't control the whole situation.
This isn't to say that I always do this. But teasing out the things you're doing well so you can do more of them is just as important as pinpointing unhelpful behaviors.
Anyway, do you know that feeling? Do you ever feel a sense of agency even in situations you can't completely control? If not, how do you cultivate that? I don't know. It's a kind of grace I've been given. I think it would be amazing to teach other people how to do that. Hell, I'd like to figure out how to cultivate more of it in myself. But I think imagination is key.
It's like that Charles Darwin quote: "It's not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is most adaptable to change." What makes you adaptable? I think it's having the imagination to see things differently.
I love that, because it lets you off the hook of trying to get through life through sheer willpower. That's exhausting! We're all worn out from that, aren't we? What if you grow from life's challenges by getting yourself into a creative space? That sounds too fun to be true, doesn't it. But what if that's what actually works?