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Wanted: Hope


            When a problem arises, how do you respond to it? How were you programmed to respond to life’s unexpected twists and turns that sometimes are overwhelming and test you to your limits? How much resilience do you have? Do you know what that even means?

            Resilience is the ability to be tough, to quickly recover from adversity – those troubles, misfortunes and trauma events that shake you to the core. Sometimes resilience is hard to summon, as when problems become long term and you begin to feel like you just can’t cope anymore. You lose hope, feel lost, sit down and give up. You may resort to alcohol and/or drugs, using anger/rage to push people away or become numb and unavailable to the people in your life.

            And then something inside you says, “No! I will not give up. I will not be defeated. I will not! I matter, too.” That is resilience. It is fighting to survive and survival requires courage, creativity and strength. Perhaps you had to do things to survive that you now feel embarrassed, guilty, even ashamed about. But you survived. Own that. You are on your way to healing and getting to a better place.

            Some experts say – and there is wisdom in it – that it is better when you change your way of thinking from “What is wrong with me?” to “Why is this happening to me?” This means looking at your strengths rather than your weaknesses, to abandon that old negativity that says you are crazy or sick, when it really is a matter of how things in your life have impacted you. Parents may teach their children that there are consequences for their actions – which there are – but sometimes there are consequences for someone else’s actions.

            There are studies being conducted regarding a term you may not have heard of: Post Traumatic Growth. This isn’t something to downplay the seriousness of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. This is to say that some (many?) people have resilience enough to make it through to the other side, to healing, despite the traumas they have endured in their lifetimes, and to make a difference in the big picture by helping to bring about needed change. Again, there is wisdom in this.

            Many times you have been advised that being a parent is the most important job you will ever do in your lifetime. Here it is again. Parents, caregivers, teachers, friends and the community at large have a great impact on how children’s thinking develops. These relationships become internalized as the template that we will use for our relationships throughout our lifetimes.

            A secure child will realize that help will come when it is needed because the parent or caregiver has fed them when they are hungry, changed diapers when they are soiled, cuddled and comforted them when they are injured or afraid. The secure child will know he or she is not alone, they are loved and cared for.

            An insecure child has been subjected to things that do not allow them to make that connection. They don’t learn how to handle their emotions. Their need for love and being connected to someone gets mixed up with fear and unease. They become adults who have been taught that “abusive, dangerous or dismissing relationships are normal,” according to an article, “Growth After Trauma,” at the American Psychological Association website.

            Post Traumatic Growth inspires hope because of the positive change and growth that is experienced through the traumatic experience. The person goes on to discover how relationships should work, how he or she perceives her Self and to develop a life of well being. It is not a direct result of trauma, rather it is how the individual struggles through the trauma. Nurturing, liberating relationships that validate feelings and genuine acceptance from others are a big part of the recovery of a person’s well being.

            Something worthy of discussion at the dinner table tonight.

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