Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Lessons of Survival Part I



Reading Surviving Survival: The Art and Science of Resilience reminded me of times in my life when I’ve
walked through the fire. Times when I’ve looked back and been awestruck I somehow came out on the other side of tragedy. I should mention that what I’ve gone through pales in comparison to the shark attack, the bear mauling, the Holocaust accounts, among other horrific events portrayed in the book.

Even still, the insights I’m about to share (in two parts) have scooped me up out of myself on more than one occasion. I was engrossed in Surviving Survival and many of the coping techniques rang familiar. I’ve employed them. The chicken and egg conundrum asks whether I read about these strategies at some point and subconsciously put them to practice or if some of what I’m about to share kicked in naturally.

Are some of us just more naturally resilient?

I don’t know about you, but I’m pretty sure I’m going for a medal in resiliency?

Because I’ve benefitted from the strategies identified in Surviving Survival, I’m excited to pass them on.

If you’ve endured a devastating life change and are struggling to move on with life (or you know someone in this situation), here are a few steps to take…

Sublimation—do something to channel your energy and anxiety
(I write novels. I paint. I run. I refurbish furniture. I create whatever, whenever.)

Altruism—doing something for someone else
(I was flooded with love and meals and kindness at a time of great loss in my life. I still swear to this day the only thing that pulled me out of this time of grief was finding someone else to shower with love and kindness and meals. Passing it on saved me.)

Suppression—not thinking about the trauma, distracting yourself from it
(This one is the most difficult for me. I’m a dweller. But running does wonders. Running and nature are great distracters from rough goings.)

Anticipation—seeing the future clearly and preparing for it
(I draft lists. I bounce ideas off trusted friends. I refuse to sit in the mire of my undoing. I act upon my dreams.)

Humor—Laugh at yourself (and the misfortune) to help heal
(Hands down my favorite coping technique. I must get a double dose of endorphin release when I crack up. I’m often caught laughing at myself while grocery shopping or driving in my car. I talk to myself in public too. All in the name of survival.)
~
Throughout Surviving, Gonzales depicts additional ways people overcame their difficult circumstances. Among them are: Focusing on positive emotions, exuding gratitude, finding something to laugh at, exercise, eating well and staying healthy, staying socially connected, and finally, “Above all, avoid self-pity.”

Gonzales quotes Tolstoy, “Ah, if only you might learn, through suffering, to believe that the only possible happiness—true, eternal, elevated—is achieved through these three things: Work, self-denial, and love.”

Truth is, we’ll all face a hardship that will threaten to sink us at some point in our lives. It’s not whether or not it will happen, it’s how we’ll choose to deal with it when it does.

What fascinates you about resiliency? Anything I shared today surprise you?

*photo by stock.XCHNG

**I’ve been having a blast featuring books written by some dear author friends of mine. This week I encourage you to check out Heather Sunseri’s Young Adult debut, Mindspeak!

16 comments:

  1. This is a great list, and that book sounds amazing! I tend to stay busy to distract myself from tough times, but then I get tired and cranky. :) Talking with a good friend, donating my time, and taking care of myself are my go-to ways to survive.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It always helps when I push myself out of my comfort zone. Talking with good friends is a great one! The book held my attention even through a lot of the detailed inner workings of the brain (actually thoroughly enjoyed those parts too).

      Delete
  2. I loved this list, Wendy. And I relate to many of your thoughts!! From April 2, 2012 all the way to the week leading up to April 2, 2013, I suffered many types of grief, anguish, and worry. And I used many of the tactics you list to survive that. Amazing how we can use laughter, distraction and the act of loving and giving to others to bring us out of the pits we are thrown in.

    Thank you so much for mentioning MINDSPEAK today. Writing and creating has helped me so much through the illness, and ultimately the loss, of my mother. And though MINDSPEAK is not about anything as deep as what I went through during the past year, that story and many novels created by others distracted me often when I was grieving. And for that, I am unbelievably thankful!! Love you, friend!!!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Love back at ya! I hear you with how writing helped get you through. It is so very cathartic. I wanted to post these tips b/c there have been times in my life I've felt stuck and have lost sight of the creativity of how to get unstuck. Sometimes just reading these refreshers help for times we really need them.

      Delete
  3. I love this post and the list, Wendy. When I was younger, I was very resilient - always bouncing back from certain hardships, mishaps, and life changing moments. I think what surprises me most is that I still have it. It's always there, and just when I think I can't take it, or move forward for whatever reason, I come back with flying colors, stronger than ever - thank you, God.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'll second that thank you to God. Breaking us down. It's loads of fun--but as you said, we come out stronger. Reminds me of one of my favorite quotes.

      Delete
  4. What surprised me, Wendy, is that you're a "dweller." You always seem so upbeat to me. Then again, you're a very deep thinker, so I suppose it makes sense that you would think about the things that are bringing you down. I know I do. That's when it's time to put some of the other strategies into play. Today, I'm all over sublimation. I'm gonna write my way outta the blues.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Always processing, always asking questions, always having to rise to the surface of my own thoughts. It's swampy in there, let me tell ya. I fight my way to that upbeat personality you observe. And some days are more of a fight than others.

      Delete
  5. I have always been fascinated by the resiliency of children. They bounce back so quickly from being sick or from injuries ... why is that? Is it just that their young? Or is their outlook on life -- their innocence, their ability to trust, to play hard, to rest hard ...
    Ah, to have the resiliency of a child.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. One of the points Gonzales made that really caught my attention was how the roughness kids endured in childhood didn't have a major influence on how they tackled tough times in adulthood. That spun me in circles. I think kids hang on to potential.

      Delete
  6. I sometimes think I was much more resilient as a kid...but then I realize the "problems" I faced as a kid were pretty much nothing. You know, not getting to go to a sleepover or not having the coolest car in high school. Haha! But yeah, I think that's a great list. Humor tends to be my go-to. And suppression...which I can sometimes take too far...but yeah...really interesting post!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Love love love humor. Can turn me whole day around a good laugh can. Yoda I be.

      Delete
  7. I can't take credit for being resilient. I'm the poster child for the Footprints poem. God carried me when I couldn't walk another step, when my husband was diagnosed and died from leukemia, when 6 months later I faced 2 surgeries. It was only by His grace I survived.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Beautiful last sentence, Susan. Such truth.

      Delete
  8. Altruism and writing are two biggies for me. To be honest though, I pray I'll be resilient as trials increase. I do not wish for the tests, but I do pray I'll have the grace and strength to endure.

    Thanks for always making me think, Wendy!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I love that you proactively pray about this, Melanie. How wise to do so.

      Delete

A Book Is Born—THE AFTER GLIMPSE

At book clubs I’m often asked where my ideas come from. The concept for THE AFTER GLIMPSE (available now) was first sparked in an ice c...