Article written by Registered Psychotherapist, Sim Shergill MSc, at One Elephant in Oakville Ontario.
After surviving loss and unexpected changes, our resilience is often tested. Sometimes lowered. Sometimes exercised. Immediately after the storm, we assess the damage. We assess the loss. We feel it deep in our ribcage. We cannot begin building in the middle of a storm. We have to wait until it stops thundering outside our windows. We rebuild after the storm is over. And amidst the chaotic scene of life, we take solace in the fact that we are okay. We survived.
Learning to thrive after trauma and loss is not linear. It is a process which comes with a lot of undoing and recycling of who we believed we were before the storm. Learning to thrive is a unique journey for everyone and there is no one size fits all of approaches to thriving. The common thread in thriving is being connected to core values that guide each step forward. Discovering values is a process that changes as we experience the world. It is okay to change your values as you grow through life. It is more important to know what your value are and how they guide your actions. If you don’t know what you stand for, you’ll fall for anything.
All chaos leads to some change and growth. This is a process and one that always requires patience. Changing worldly perspectives is not easy and especially not so for the brain. We all fluctuate in our emotions. We all can have a moment of bliss followed by a moment of anger. This does not mean we are crazy. This means that we are human Give yourself grace and permission to rebuild in a way that works for you. In moments, where your emotions are running high and you are sounding far more harsh in your words than you would be to others – offering self grace is an important skill.
Offering grace to yourself begins with acknowledging you are human. You will never be perfect. No one is. Not one soul. Regardless of how incredible you believe their life is. No one is perfect. By acknowledging you are human, this creates room for self-compassion. Take into consideration the context behind your actions. The dominoes of little behaviours that lead to big behaviours.
Offering grace to yourself also includes becoming aware of the bullying mind that shows up, ready to pounce, on any mistake or flaw that you have. Be aware that this mind of ours, is a place of friendship but also a place of drama. Be careful of the language you use. Our vocabulary matters! What we say to ourselves usually inspires behaviour. I like to think that behaviour and thoughts are not attached at the hip. You can have negative thoughts and still behave aligned with your values and goals. You can have negative feelings and still behave aligned with your values and goals. What matters is the language that we use. One simple switch is instead of ‘I have to do this’ to ‘I get to do this’ or ‘I am a failure’ to ‘I am open to making mistakes.’ If you value learning, then any mistake is an opportunity for learning. (Repeating the same mistake is a bit of a different discussion.)
Be aware of the impact of negative statements on your perception of your abilities. For example, using the word ‘But’ adds hesitancy to the situation. We justify behaving a certain way because of feeling a certain way. The word ‘but’ takes us farther from our goals and values. Using the word ‘And’ adds validation to the situation. When we use the word ‘and’ we are adding possibility to our behaviours; We are allowing ourselves to move with emotion rather than stay in emotion. And all emotions are okay to experience. It’s what you do with the emotion that truly matters.
You are human. You are trying. You are moving. You are progressing.
It is more about our journey than the destination. Once we reach our destination, we are often forced to think about how we got there. Of course we may indulge in reaching our destination, but we never forget our shaky steps that we took to get there. And shaky or not, learning to make meaning out of the messes in life is a process that adds greatly to our growth. A process that requires vulnerability and curiosity.
Book an appointment with Sim Shergill MSc, Registered Psychotherapist at One Elephant Integrative Heath Team to help support your journey in developing resilience by clicking here!