Do you have an attitude for ‘how will I get through this?’ To summon determination so that you keep going until you get to the other side of something stressful.
That’s resilience. It’s training your brain to push through adversity rather than fold into helplessness when the going gets tough.
I consider myself pretty resilient and I’m tenacious in finding new ways to thrive, but I want to share with you a time when I was really tested to think out of the box and rapidly come up with a brand-new coping strategy. I was lying in the MRI scanner about to have my head and neck scanned.
“Soothing music?” they asked.
“Of course,” I replied, knowing how such music positively affects brainwaves.
“Here’s the panic button. Press it and we’ll get you out as quickly as possible”
“Oh, I won’t need that, I’m an accomplished meditator” my Hubris responded, after all I was making clear pictures of myself lying flat and relaxed.
And so, it began. I lay still, calm, and ready to remain relaxed.
But no sooner than the machine began its vibrating sound, my reptilian brain immediately shifted into a primitive fight/flight reaction.
No problem I thought, understanding that I just needed to adjust my autonomic nervous system reaction. So I aimed all attention on soothing basal brain through a calming breathing technique. But as visceral fear surged through me I panicked, pressed the button and they brought me out. I was unable to override a fearful amygdala.
Truly bemused, I tried again a few moments later. This time, I decided to activate my brain’s creative centres through visualisation of my happy place with full sensory association – an excellent way to switch on calm. But no, as cortisol and adrenaline misdirected my body, reptilian brain pressed the button again…
Damn it. Now I was cross and somewhat shocked at how my body and mind had stopped talking to each other.
Last chance. I could either validate the fear reaction and retreat into failure, or find a new solution. “This is your brain, drive it on purpose” I thought calmly and clearly.
“How else can you drive your brain through fear and get to beyond?”
I made a mental checklist of what hadn’t worked and searched for something different. Numbers! Maths! My sure way to zone out!
And so I began counting back from 500, out loud while visualising each number. It required intense concentration and I frequently had to start again whenever I lost that focus. But it worked, the strategy worked! I had pushed through adversity and discovered a new strategy. Learning through doing something different.
I’m thinking a lot these days about the things that children and teens tell us adults and how easy it is to advise or correct them from the adult world-view, rather than guide inner growth.
You may hear phrases like “I can’t” or “I’m stupid” and immediately, rush to correct; “yes you can” or “no, you’re not stupid”…
Imprinting a young brain with the adult world-view can cause confusion if the external voice contradicts their internal voice. That forces a decision about who the young mind should listen to and steals their opportunity to learn the cause-and-effect patterns of self-responsibility that build self-esteem.
Of course, influence or compliance has its place, but it is growth limiting.
Insisting that children adopt adult-only rules for living, means they either ‘rinse and repeat’ the patterns of the past, or they reject them in polarity. Both strategies are mentally restrictive and emotionally sticky.
We must do better for our young people, than require them to do things our way.
Like giving them opportunities to explore other perspectives, figure internal stuff out, and learn to adjust their responses each time they get something right, or wrong. But let this be based in reality.
So your child comes home and says
“Mary was mean to me…” What do you say? “That bitch Mary really has in for you …”
“I’ll call her mother …”
“I’ll speak to the teacher …”
“You must have done something to upset her …”
“What did you see/hear that you felt was mean?”
“What was happening just before you felt upset?”
“Do you think something specific upset her?”
“What upset you about her behaviour?”
These responses are not a prescription by the way, they simply highlight the difference between training closed thinking and open (thrive) thinking.
This month’s tip for supporting resilience in children and teens, is to get curious about the unique reality of a young mind. Don’t fear a reality that doesn’t mirror yours, don’t challenge it because you judge it wrong according to the way you were indoctrinated. Don’t tell them they are wrong (that sets up messy thinking further downstream). Don’t ask them to justify their beliefs, that sets up stress in everyone.
Be part of a revolution that helps young minds expand into new perspectives and figure personal solutions. Build self-responsibility, crucial for a healthier society where people are not easily offended or expect the world to revolve around them.
Top Tip: Don’t Tell – Ask
When you hear “I can’t”
Try these questions:
“You can’t?” Reflect the precise words in parrot fashion.
“Oh tell me more …” Enable them to expand their own thinking rather than justify their ideas. Sometimes just voicing an opinion with an outside voice, helps it to make more sense.
“Is that because you don’t want to, or because you don’t know how to?” Guide them towards facts that support action.
“If you don’t want to, then what is it that you would prefer to do instead?” Let the negative emotion transfer to a thrive energy. People see clearer and make better decisions in thrive mode.
“Is this something that you have to do and therefore figure a way to do it more easily?”
Presuppose the capability was the issue.
“How would you like me to help you?” Teach them it’s OK to ask for help and that collaboration is beneficial.
Help young people discover their unique aspects of their happy brains. Don’t just give them yours.
September brought us the Equinox, marking a moment of ‘balance’ in our yearly calendar, with day and night available to us, in equal measure.
I guess you know when you’re (metaphorically) tipping out of balance, right? When it seems all that’s left is to give up or give over to some external authority on your wellbeing?
Balance is one of our key themes when working with the next generation, we want them to trust that they can always find it, know how to achieve it, and don’t need to rely on an external authority to do the re-balancing for them. We call this RESILIENCE.
We must teach resilience as an ‘inside job’ so the next generation learns how to self-adjust their personal wellbeing rather than defaulting to the notion that the solution, or the blame, lies elsewhere.
Sometimes in our work, we find parents and teachers don’t believe it is possible for young people to self-manage wayward thoughts and emotions and make it their priority to step in at the first hint of challenge. Fast forward to a generation of teenagers who never learned to hardwire the skills of ‘doing’ resilience i.e., falling over, picking self-up, reflecting on what to do differently next time, taking responsibility for the results in life and adjusting mindset/behaviours to meet new needs. Simply put, this is the process of learning and a far cry from our ‘woke’ generation who want to blame or change others. How have we forgotten our nature as exquisite learners?
And those parents and teachers who DO believe it is possible for young people to self-manage wayward thoughts and emotions, often just don’t know how to teach these skills. Thankfully we do.
This month’s Resilience Tip is to help children imagine their future self as buoyant and able to respond to and rebalance after any of life’s whirlwinds. Imagineering (as we call it) is nature’s way of formatting neural pathways into codes of possibility. That’s how we landed on the moon – someone had the idea first … It was an imagined possibility that eventually became tangible actions.
I vote for more seedingof great ideas inside the minds of our next generation. Imaginings of a flourishing future. We cannot thrive as a species if we continue to fill young people’s imaginations with fear and helplessness.
We all become what we repeatedly do, so why not help your child habituate resilience inside their mind’s eye and set a clear direction for their brains and bodies to follow?
We all deserve a thriving next generation, don’t we?
Strictly Necessary Cookies
Strictly Necessary Cookie should be enabled at all times so that we can save your preferences for cookie settings.
If you disable this cookie, we will not be able to save your preferences. This means that every time you visit this website you will need to enable or disable cookies again.