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When our nation is under fire, when our soldiers are engaged in dangerous conflict, stress levels can run high. For those directly and indirectly affected by the current situation, there are ways of responding that can ease the sense of stress.
“He did it againnnn! Can you believe it?!” Well, actually I can. I’ve had clients and friends come to me time and time again with stories about the particular nemesis in their lives. They have a look of horror and disbelief as they relate stories already familiar to me. “My boss took credit for my work, again!” “My mother-in-law is trying to dominate the holiday, again!” “My spouse just sat there when our son arrived late, again!” “My colleague sat down uninvited and interrupted my work, again!” I do listen with sympathy. The relater of the story is truly in distress. And my simultaneous thought is “And you are surprised because?”
“You weren’t listening to me!” “Yes I was! You said…” And they in fact repeat back exactly what we have just said. Familiar interaction? And yet, have you ever felt less than satisfied when that happens? Why this lack of satisfaction? What has happened, or perhaps more accurately, what has not happened They obviously did hear us, so what is still missing? What are we actually trying to do when we communicate?
An important resilient expectation is Realistic Optimism. We are realistic in that we expect the road of life to have bumps, and we are optimistic in that we believe we can or will be able to manage the bumps. Sometimes these bumps are external, a challenge at our work, a health issue, children that do not admire and agree with every utterance from our mouths. And sometimes these bumps are internal, we lose our temper easily, we tend to procrastinate, we react before we think.
Organizational studies suggest that one of the things employees most desire and least feel is acknowledgement, recognition for effort and work well done. People will grumble about their boss not addressing this important issue. And yet we are often similarly neglectful in the way we relate to ourselves.
Ever notice how sometimes people ask a question when they really do not have a question? Recently I approached an office building where the gate at the entrance booth was open. I pulled up past the gate to the window where the guard was sitting, and opened my window to say where I was headed. The guard asked: “Why did you pull up past the gate?” I attempted to answer. However, as the guard repeated the question, I noticed a slightly annoyed and slightly frustrated feeling growing inside me.
“I’m confused”, clients have said with a look of dismay. “Great!” I say. “That is the first step toward new thinking.” We humans use routine thinking for routine situations. We compartmentalize incoming data to help us manage the vast amounts of information coming our way. Hmm, seat, back, some legs – goes into our “chair” compartment of our thinking, and then we can move on to another thought
There is an important distinction when we judge people, versus judging objects or ideas. Judging a person’s qualifications or behaviors can appropriately guide us toward fitting actions. Regarding a person or a person’s character, it may be more helpful, and more resilient, to focus on compassion and on making decisions rather than judgments.
“My truth is not fact.” a client recently declared to me. It was a magical moment of insight.
Flexible thinking is a characteristic of high-level resilience. This is the ability to consider multiple perspectives, to consider different possible understandings of a situation or problem, as well as resulting different possibilities for action. Flexible thinking gives us greater choice and so a greater sense of control, contributing to an increased sense of psychological well-being.