There is a lot of talk about resilience now and I see many workplaces putting effort into helping people understand how to be more resilient. It is generally around play to your strengths and it is pretty cognitive in its focus. That is, a very logical, rational approach to being resilient. In my experience as a coach when most people struggle with resilience it is their emotions and feelings that they have, that they are struggling to deal with. Those emotions they are experiencing are either disconnected and unconscious so not being expressed, or, they are so intolerable they will do anything to avoid feeling them. I’m not just talking about the yuck emotions like guilt, disgust, anger, shame. I’m talking about exalted emotions to; joy, ecstasy, love.
I’ve done a lot of training in working with trauma somatically in the last two years and it has really expanded my view of resilience. For me resilience is growing our ability to be able to be with all our emotions and experiences in life and that includes discomfort, feeling weak, struggling and being challenged. It is being able to tolerate and embrace positive experiences like connection, amazement, joy and love. It is being able to let yourself feel your emotions in your body and be totally aware of where you are feeling them. So my focus is on helping people I coach, little by little, be able to have experiences where they may feel weakness or vulnerability or be filled up with joy and be with it in their heart, their body and their mind. Without trying to make it right or wrong. Just experience it and be with it. So it is in learning to be with anything and everything, whether it feels like it is a good or bad experience, that builds our resilience.
Just like the tree in this picture above, that is thousands of years old, it has weathered, severe heat, storms, floods, insects and animals all over it, viruses, humans creating buildings in the middle of the place that it lives, we learn to be with the experience as it has and keep on growing and learning. When we are able to be with everything that we experience, we become less reactive, experience a greater sense of safety in our body, we make more considered decisions, we act in greater alignment with what is right and true for us. We are able to pay attention to what might be going on for others under the surface and act from a place of compassion when they may be struggling.
How do we do this? Our emotions are energy they want to move through our body. So learning to be with them and experience them in a grounded way, not repressing or over-dramatising them. Using our breath or movement to help them move through our body and experiencing what is on the other side of them. We have a common misconception that mindfulness has to be stillness and quiet. This is a very masculine view of mindfulness; growing consciousness through stillness. We can use techniques like breathwork, somatic movement (yoga and pilates), dance, to work with the energy of our emotions and really connect into the felt sense of them in our body. Journalling is a great technique to articulate what you are feeling and for those people I coach who hate writing I encourage speaking into a voice recorder app just to get it all out. There are so many tools and strategies you have to work with. The key is going slowly taking small steps as you push the boundaries slowly of what you can tolerate and be with.