Resilience and the Path We Choose

  • Published
  • By Tina Felder-Jones
  • 8th Fighter Wing
Recently, I began viewing the television series "The Little House on the Prairie," a favorite television show from my childhood. Mrs. Oleson is one of the featured characters: a wealthy antagonist and a brute of a woman. After viewing each episode I found myself wondering how an individual becomes to be like Mrs. Oleson: unpleasant, self-centered and distrustful. My thoughts on the subject brought me to a dear friend of mine. Although, I love and care for this person a great deal, doing so is not an easy undertaking. Like Mrs. Oleson, my dear friend is an antagonist in many aspects of her life including interactions with other people. Unlike most people my friend interacts with on a day-to-day basis, I have been granted access into her life and provided with an understanding of what is underneath the hard exterior. What lies beneath is unmitigated pain, disappointment, rejection, anger and most importantly, a refusal to let them go. The refusal is pervasive, narrowing the field of vision beyond horrific events, heart-wrenching experiences and pain beyond understanding also known as the 'negativity bias' (the tendency to remember and emphasize negative events). We all have our crosses to bear and burdens to carry. If you are an analytical person you may ask: how do individuals with similar experiences and circumstances differ vastly salient to the lives they lead whereby some individuals seem to thrive (resilient) while other individuals seemingly languish (suffer)?

The answer lies in the path we choose. The first path is built upon chain links. Each chain link ties one bad experience to the next, reinforces the negativity bias, and sets in motion the foundation for bitterness, loss of connection and inadequacy. Gradually, the chain links develop into a foreboding fence that eventually engulfs the individual, robbing them of insight, the ability to think accurately and flexibly and of hope. As individuals journey on this path growth and development becomes stagnate. There is a limited understanding of self, others and the true cause of problems. Cynicism, ineffective problem-solving and poor communication establish patterns of broken relationships, conflict, broken dreams and hearts...broken people. However, all is not lost. The choice does not rest upon the events and experiences that unfold in people's lives but rather how they react to those events and experiences. The good news is that no one has to remain on the chain-linked path. There is a second path that can be embarked upon at any stage in life without regard to any circumstance.

The second path is built upon stepping stones to resilience (the ability to grow and thrive in the face of challenges and the ability to bounce back from adversity). When one journeys down this path it provides for growth, development of coping tools, self-awareness, optimism and mental agility. Each stepping stone leads to a more progressive level of self-fulfillment, connection to others and achievement. The path of resilience provides the individual with the power and courage to work through challenges and adversity and to see the true cause of problems (insight). It is this process that gives freedom from a life of bitterness, alienation, and stagnation in addition to the strength to forgive self and others. The path of resilience fosters awareness of what one truly has control over. It is this intentionality that allows individuals to obtain what they need and want in life. Resilience does not develop without effort and sacrifice. One must be willing to take the necessary risks, capitalize on opportunities and be willing to look at oneself from a multidimensional standpoint and to act accordingly. Resilience calls for a commitment to develop the six core competencies: self-awareness; self-regulation; optimism; mental agility; strengths of character; and connection. The foundation of resilience is rooted in the four dimensions of strength: social, spiritual, mental and physical. Yes, the path of resilience requires consistent progress and balance. The process can be daunting but is most certainly worth the risk.

Which path will you choose?