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Resilience, a tool for difficult times

27 | 05 | 2020

Adapting to adversity is one of life’s most valuable lessons.

During the Baroque period, moral virtues were expressed through illustrations accompanied by a title and a verse, or a sentence that explained them. It was a visual-poetic form known as emblem. Books of emblems, best-sellers in their time, were used as religious and moral teaching guides. They are, to this day, compendiums of the wisdom of what it means to be human, culled from a tremendous number of sources. Emblems of love, of anger, of chastity and temperance, describe just some of them, that last one being but one of the most powerful of human virtues.

In emblems, temperance was variously represented in graphics. One way was an illustration of a ship at sea, tossed in a storm. Within the metaphor, temperance is symbolized by the work of the crew to navigate through strong winds and enormous waves. The triumph of temperance implies the survival of the ship and its crew. Temperance thus necessarily begins with resistance.

All of us, everyone, experience storms during the course of our lives. Beyond the luminosity of human life, our very existence involves all kinds of pain and loss. An ability to tolerate adversity has been calledresilienceby modern psychology. It’s an ability to adapt to distressing, painful moments, and to resist them. Resilience is a return from moments of tragedy, loss, or stress, in a kind of rebound or return to port, bearing with oneself a personal growth.

In the context of today’s world, filled as it is with uncertainty and suffering of all kinds, resilience may be a necessary tool. Social estrangement, suffering, being shut-in, and worry may all well lead to emotional crisis. It’s important to be attentive to the inner life, especially in times like these. And this could help us to make the right decisions.

It’s important to remember that resilience is not a personality trait. It’s a human capacity more related to behavior. That’s to say, it’s something that can be learned and developed through will and attention.

For the U.S. Psychological Association, some conditions are crucial to resilience: connections with other people, a comprehensive well-being, and healthy thoughts are among them. For building resilience, there are a lot of tools. Physical exercise can be particularly useful, as it stimulates multiple systems within the body that bring us nearer to physical and mental health. Healthy eating can also positively affect well-being levels. Meditation is a necessary and powerful practice for facing adversity, and a way of maintaining healthy thoughts.

Connections with other people, perhaps those closest to us, is one great way to go through difficult times. Just talking and listening is a way of healing. And speaking of possible measures that might be taken with others, another way to keep your mind healthy in difficult times is to help others (some possibilities are here). It’s a way to keep one’s thoughts on something more important than ourselves.

Finally, one of the greatest acts for developing resilience is to accept change and develop flexibility of thought. It’s something much needed in the current global crisis from which we’ll, no doubt, return somehow changed. Don’t forget that storms will never stop coming. With the right tools, they can always be resisted.

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