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Guidepost #3 : Cultivating a Resilient Spirit

Posted by: Ronda Devereaux | July 9, 2012 | 10:00 am

Resilience is defined as the ability to overcome adversity. I have always been fascinated at how two people can go through the same event (albeit from different perspectives) and how some people will stand right back up and dust themselves off and others will never rise again. What causes that spark and determination? Why do some people make such light in the world and others only want to be shadows?


In her research Brene Brown, author of The Gifts of Imperfection  says that “Without exception, spirituality – the belief in connection, a power greater than self, and interconnections grounded in love and compassion – emerged as a component of resilience. Holy crap, I must have been one spiritual kid! Actually kids are innately spiritual (and resilient) until some well meaning adult tries to change their mind. I used to sit in trees. Growing up in Oregon there were tons of them and to me they were a refuge. I would just sit up there and soak in all of their wisdom.

Brene also cites hope as being a key component of wholehearted living yet tells us that it is not an emotion. It’s a way of thinking. In very simple terms, hope happens when
1)      We have the ability to set realistic goals  (I know where I want to go)

2)      We are able to figure out how to achieve those goals, including the ability to stay flexible and develop alternative routes (I know how to get there, I’m persistent, and I can tolerate disappointment and try again).

3)      We believe in ourselves (I can do this!)


I now understand that I was a really hopeful kid. Actually I have always been hopeful and under this definition would define it as one of my strengths. There is concern for the current teenagers out there whose sense of entitlement “I deserve this just because I want it” can turn into hopelessness, self doubt and powerlessness. This is a desperate model for self destruction instead of resilience. Agency is “I know I can do this”, yet this is not a current model taught mainstream to children. It starts at home. Practicing and teaching critical awareness (reality-checking the messages and expectations that drive the “never good enough” gremlins) is paramount to living a wholehearted life. Critical awareness is also one of the key elements to shame resilience. It’s about being able to look out of our own eyes and see what is real. When we are in the midst of a struggle or crisis, step back and look at the event with those neutral eyes. It is amazing how the picture changes and what once was a class 4 storm turns into a minor squall.
Numbing and taking the edge off has also become  a national pastime and is contradictive to whole hearted living. Trying to feel the feelings, staying mindful about numbing behaviors, and trying to lean into the discomfort of hard emotions are what is required. Boy am I going to piss off the FDA again. No wait, Brene said that, it will be her that pisses them off this time. Many of us engage in numbing behaviors that are painfully obvious – alcoholism, drug addiction and the like. Many of us don’t see our behavior as numbing – hey will you pass me that donut. Or “but it’s a prescription”. Even being the family busy body fits in here when it is a distraction for what is going on in your own life. Numbness can take on all different forms. There are even some of us (and this is a big one for me) that have become very adept at pushing away the feelings. But if we push them away, where do they go? Is that why our back hurts or our kids are acting out or everyone in the house seems angry??? If you don’t feel them they have to go somewhere….. It boils down to we all numb and take the edge off somehow, the question is does this get in the way of your authenticity? Are we using it to hide and escape the reality of our lives or be emotionally honest??
Learning to understand my behavior through the lens of vulnerability is my task at hand. That whole being vulnerable thing still makes my stomach constrict so I know I am on to something there. I can choose to ignore it, but on my current journey, I don’t think the little voices in my head would let me. And now that I have opened my mouth (or keyboard) I don’t think you will either. Crap.

Article by: Ronda Devereaux

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7 responses to “Guidepost #3 : Cultivating a Resilient Spirit”

  1. Kimberly says:

    We throw around the word resiliency in the Army community a lot. It’s something we all want to give our children but the tough truth is that some of us cope better than others.

    • Resiliency, fortitude, drive, devotion are all attributes that I would use to describe the military. Do you think this is a learned trait or inherit?? or a little of both… I think the latter.

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    • Great questions – Sometimes it is all those thoughts coming out that is my writing…LOL Other times it’s about getting present. I might do a short meditation and ground myself. When weather permits, I go outside to write. I have a favorite spot which is always inspiring and grounding!

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