Resilitator Roundtable: Thoughts on Bouncing Back

Adversity, major disruptions, and trying circumstances affect everyone. Resilient people handle their feelings in healthy ways with an expectation to rebuild their disrupted lives in a new way to that works for them. This struggle to overcome adversity develops new strengths in them. In The Resiliency Advantage, Dr. Al Siebert speaks to resiliency-psychology research. He says, "The most empowering finding … is that you have an inborn predisposition to become resilient and change-proficient." Below is a discussion thread between three of our Resilitators on concepts and ideas related to bouncing back. We invite you to provide your comments.

From Michelle Atlas:

I know that it is thought/understood that highly resilient people are capable of rallying from hardship relatively quickly (and it's what I facilitate in the course). At the same time, I'm questioning the "quickly" part. My personal coping style has often involved allowing a large container of time and space to explore and reflect upon various levels and facets to learn and grow through difficult experiences. My experience is that genuine transformation has a timing of its own, seems to take more time than one might want or expect, and at the same time, if rushed through to "adapt quickly" could really compromise the authenticity and staying power of the growth of learning. It's always felt to me that what matters most is not how quickly one adapts, but how honestly and deeply one understands what has occurred and the lessons available (I guess more of a focus on quality than speed). I'm thinking particularly with regard to trauma where a mentality of "quick" could greatly compromise the healing. And I think people are really different in this way as well, maybe sometimes having to do with whether one is extroverted versus introverted etc. I definitely have more of an introverted coping style.

That all being said, I know that in the work environment the capacity to adapt rapidly to a new reality is a crucial leadership competency and a whole other ballgame from a more extended personal journey.

From Glen Fahs:

Thought-provoking, Michelle. I too have mixed feelings about implying that it is wise to suck it up and move on without digesting. We could choke.

Hope you don't mind, but I am copying our conference speakers since it is good to reflect on such matters prior to our sessions together in July.

As you know, Bridges distinguished external change from internal transitions and advised on how to deal with endings and the neutral zone -- but how many corporate leaders understand his approach? Al counseled victims of trauma such as rape and kidnapping and thought even the most impressive survivors had disturbing dreams, feelings, etc. to work through.

One intercultural factor in the process is low context vs. high context personalities and cultures. The Western bias seems to be the faster we "move on" the better. In the East, we more seriously honor the visitor, the elder, the rituals, and the group. In the Middle East, wrongs from 1000 years ago have weight today. Females and other races value relationships and feelings more than the average Caucasian male. Does that relate to Native American struggles?

While it seems functional to deny feelings during times of threat, we need to share our high stress experiences and reflect on trauma or we are more likely to suffer post-traumatic stress. So the strong in the moment may be the suicide victim or mentally/emotionally disturbed person who can't adjust to their former culture. High context probably makes us less comfortable with change and more likely to seek the emotional support we need.

From Bill Swift:

There does often seem to be a misunderstanding of the resilient characteristic of rallying from hardship quickly. I like the way Gonzalez describes the attribute in his book Deep Survival. He calls it Perceive/Believe. The resilient survivor more quickly and fully understands their circumstances and begins to adapt and adjust from a position of strength. At the same time, the resilient person is fully experiencing all the feelings that go with the loss or transition and (learning from experience) knows that fully processing this loss may take some time, perhaps a long time. In addiction treatment we used to talk about the problems with a "quick recovery" not allowing the person to fully experience all the important feelings and transitions at their pace.

This is a good reminder for me to, while encouraging resiliency, not imply that we just snap back automatically.

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