Tag Archive | blame

Resilience and Life’s Hard Knocks—What Keeps Us Growing

“Resilience is that ineffable quality that allows some people to be knocked down by life and come back stronger than ever. Rather than letting failure overcome them and drain their resolve, they find a way to rise from the ashes. Psychologists have identified some of the factors that make someone resilient, among them a positive attitude, optimism, the ability to regulate emotions, and the ability to see failure as a form of helpful feedback. Even after a misfortune, blessed with such an outlook, resilient people are able to change course and soldier on.”   ~Psychology Today~

 

Today, resilience has been on my mind.  Why do some people seem to thrive and grow and keep moving forward despite unfortunate life circumstance?  The answer is that they possess a quality called resilience, that springy, bounciness that has them back up on their feet quickly after a fall, dusting themselves, and moving forward stronger than before.  Resilient people are the Timex watches of the world; They take a licking and keep on ticking.  Resilient people are beautiful, and I know a lot of them.  I am a resilient person, too.  They do not turn to anger, and bitterness, and blame of the world, and everyone in it, when life is less than ideal, either by uncontrollable circumstances, or because of their own mistakes and poor choices.  Resilient people do not just take lemons and turn them into lemonade.  No, instead they make a lemon mousse with a blueberry coulis 😉

What constitutes resilience?  In a nutshell, it is the ability to cope with unfortunate life events without getting dragged down to too long.  Resilience comes more easily for some people, both emotional and physical resilience.  Some people are just born more naturally optimistic, positive, and flexible.  Some people learn resilience along the way, as life provides more experiences from which to recover.  Age plays a factor in resilience, as does experience at surviving and thriving.  When we’ve been through a lot, and we’ve kept going, and remained hopeful, and optimistic, and see that behavior works better than blaming or negativity, we develop more traits associated with resilience.

Yes, resilient people have certain traits.  First off, they are aware of their own emotions, and what causes them, and they learn to manage them.  This may take more time for some, especially the managing part.  I was always aware of my emotions, and generally aware of where they were coming from, but learning to manage them took, and still takes, time.  I am a sensitive, and fairly reactive, very expressive person.  However, I am also easy going.  As my sister says, “For a high strung person, you’re incredibly easy going.”  It’s true.  I don’t sweat the small stuff, and the older I get, the more I realize most of it is small stuff.  “It’s not the end of the world,” is a phrase I say out loud many times a day.  Trust me.  It’s really not.

Resilient people persevere.  They do not give up often, or easily.  I often liken myself to one of those blow up clowns with sand in the bottom.  You punch them and punch them but they just pop right back up.  My ability to pop back up time and again is because I never lose hope.  I often say that I am a “Hope springs eternal” kind of gal, and that’s true, too.  Resilient people, no matter how low they go, always have hope that tomorrow is going to be better, so they keep pushing forward towards that tomorrow.

Resilient people are internally focused.  What that means is that, instead of looking out at the world, blaming and shaming finger pointed at anything and everyone who crosses their path, they know inside that they are in control of their lives, their choices, their outcomes.  This isn’t done with perfection, or 100% of the time, and for many their are occasional missteps where the locus moves to the external, at what’s happening to them.  However, the resilient person won’t stay in the external for long.  They will go back inside themselves, examine their role in what’s going on, and begin problem solving.  They will find a solution, often through a change in their own attitude, or behavior.  That is why resilient people grow from mistakes, and poor choices and behaviors, and from life itself.

A resilient person will always find a bright side to any circumstance.  We are positive, optimistic people.  At the same time, perhaps because of this life view, resilient people have good support systems of friends, family, and others who are like minded, and who help shore them up during those experiences in life that we label “bad.”

Resilience is essential to recovery, whether it be from alcoholism and addiction, loss, trauma and abuse.  It’s my belief that everyone is in recovery from something, whether it be a job loss, a bad work evaluation, a divorce, or a stubbed toe, and bad traffic on the way to work.  Resilience allows us accept even undesirable outcomes, forgive, move on, and finally let go, usually coming out better and strong for the experience.  Resilient people are bright, shiny, and sparkling.  The don’t hold grudges, and they do not look back for too long.  They are not trapped by their past, a slave to their present, and they don’t worry a lot about the future.

I don’t know if I emerged from the womb a resilient person.  I think I probably had the traits on the delivery table.  Life’s hard knocks began early, and I learned some pretty crummy coping mechanisms along the way, though they are probably what kept me alive.  I’ve done anger, and blame at points in my life and I HATED how that felt.  I never could hold a grudge 😉 I have always had hope.  I have always known it was going to get better.  I have always kept going even when others thought it impossible, that I’d never make it through alive this time.  I have learned how to be more resilient with each tough experience, and with each tough experience I have become more myself.

Today, I am celebrating resilience, and resilient people.  Without God and resilience, I would not be here today.  If you are a resilient person, celebrate that today, even if you’re in the middle of yet another storm.  If you’re not the most resilient person in the world, you CAN learn resilience!  It will take work, but it will be worth every moment of it!

 

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Addiction versus Narcissism and Sociopathy

Yesterday, I read a post on a blog where the poster was speaking of people with substance abuse issues in what I consider to be a very narrow view.  Basically, what he reduced a person with an addiction was to “an addictive personality,” nothing more, nothing less.  Taking it further, the poster went on to say that addictive personalities have life-long, deep seated character problems, blame the world for their problems, and fail to take personal responsibility for their behavior.  That these comments were made my a retired psychiatrist, not just some man off the street, is even more disturbing.  While it is true that someone deep in their addiction will generally deflect responsibility onto someone, or something else, once recovery begins, so does acceptance of one’s own personal responsibility in poor choices, bad behaviors, and so forth.

However, to reduce addiction to a character defect, and to claim all addicts and alcoholics are merely addictive personalities does a severe disservice to those living in addiction, and those who have triumphed over their addiction.  Experience has taught me, both  intensely personal, and from extensive observation of others, that addiction is never that simple.  I believe this is especially true for women, because it is most often women who are subject to childhood trauma and sexual abuse, and these women are then are left to somehow pick up the pieces from those experiences without an instruction manual.

Childhood trauma and abuse lead to PTSD and, over a lifetime, PTSD can look like many, many things.  This is well documented in psychiatric world.  PTSD can lead to eating disorders, self harm, substance abuse, and repeated poor choices in life.  PTSD at various times in life can come out as depression, anger, and anxiety.  It can look like bipolar disorder, and is often misdiagnosed and treated as such.  Until the PTSD is faced, treated, and defeated, it can look and behave like so many things that are only red herrings.  Of course, childhood trauma and abuse that leads to substance abuse, or other self defeating behaviors, does not factor in any genetic components, also so important to acknowledge.  That a child who lives in an alcoholic home is more apt to be traumatized as a child goes without saying, and certainly in this case, you have trauma mixed neatly with unfortunate genetics.

It was while I was prison that I first became acquainted with the ACES Study.  ACES is an acronym for adverse childhood experiences study.  Adverse childhood experiences are, simply, put traumatic experience which occurred before the age of 18.  What I learned was among my fellow female inmates, nearly 100% of these women had an ACES score of over 6, with 10 being the highest possible score.  Statistics on women in prison who have suffered childhood abuse and trauma are generally quoted at being of 60% to 90%.  I tend to believe the 90%.  Since women in prison are almost always there for drug and alcohol related crimes, what does this tell us?   It tell me that these women, myself included, we not born flawed, nor defective, nor are we merely addictive personalities.  We are women who have been hurt, and hurt again, and then hurt some more, and we coped with that pain the best way we knew how, as faulty and personally destructive as was that coping mechanism.  Of course, when we are drinking or drugging, we are a perfect candidate for an abuser looking for an easy target to prey on, and the cycle continues, and gets worse.

But, alcoholism, addiction, and PTSD are all very treatable.   People do get better and go on to live healthy, productive, lives.  Some people go beyond getting better.  They move on to become authentic.  That brings me to my favored personality development theory, Dabrowski’s Theory of Positive Disintegration.  As much as I like Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, Dabrowski rings far more true for me.  Loathe as I am to use Wikipedia as a source, for this topic, I am going to do it.  So, go here and read this: Positive Disintegration.  It’s not an easy or a quick read, but it is extremely worthwhile.  The theory is far too complex for me to give you a nutshell description here.

So, how can disintegration, an ugly term, ever be positive?  In certain persons, people Dabrowski terms as those with a high developmental potential, disintegration, as messy, and painful, and ugly as it is, eventually leads to the ultimate reintegration, and that is where the authentic person is found.   Dabrowski speaks of people with inherent overexcitabilies, similar to Elaine Aron’s traits of the Highly Sensitive Person.  A HSP, or a person with these overexcitabilities will see and feel life far more intensely than the average person.  I am a HSP, and I have several children who are, too.   Actually, I think they six out of the seven are, to one degree or another.  So, for we HSPs, life just hurts.  Are we born HSPs, or with these overexcitabilities, or are they born from childhood trauma?  What does childhood trauma do to a HSP?  Well, it may lead to that all important series of disintegration experiences, which, if faced appropriately, can lead to a beautiful place called authenticity.

I know many, many, women who are doing more than recovering from addiction, and healing from childhood trauma.  They are working hard to build their disintegration experiences into a firm foundation of personal integrity and authenticity.  These women, and I am one of them, have moved beyond excuses and blame and self abuse.  They live in honesty of all that they were, what they experienced, how it affected them, and those around them. We have a gleaming personal integrity.  We make mistakes, and take responsibility, we apologize, we keep moving forward.  It’s a beautiful way to live, and a gorgeous thing to watch.

Contrast all of the above with the narcissist, or the sociopath.  These are the people who are truly flawed to the core.  They do not get better.  They are the extreme in the term “treatment resistant.”  They lie, blame, fail to take personal responsibility, but worse, they see absolutely nothing wrong with that behavior, or themselves.  They almost never seek treatment, and if they do, they almost always use it to hone their craftiness—too learn how to better fake being human. Since they believe there is nothing wrong with them, they do not seek treatment to get better. They generally do it to shut someone up, usually a partner.  In their minds, there is nothing to get better from, so they lie their way through therapy, and the therapist often gets sucked in by their charm, so he or she may actually pat the narcissist or sociopath on the back and tell him he’s just fine.  For this reason, in many ways, it is far better for a sociopath not to seek help lest he come out of it more advanced in his manipulation skills.  These people are the users and abusers in the world, and they are everywhere.

So, give me addiction and PTSD and a messy looking life any day!   I am healing, and I moving forward, and I am better, and lest I sound a tad narcissistic, I am beautiful.   I am not an addictive personality.  I am a glorious, genuine, human being with integrity, kindness, compassion.  I live a wonderful life.