Jane's Mental Health Source Page

One of the Web's Oldest Personal Mental Health Sites [Est. 1998]

Building Emotional Resilience

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I am writing this in the context that you are getting the appropriate medical/mental health help for depression, anxiety, and other “organic” causes that exacerbate emotional pain.

Once upon a time, I met someone who appears incredibly giving and loving. When I came home, I told to my husband how wonderful this person was. How fortunate I’ve been to have met such a person.

Then I said, “I don’t ever, ever want to look like this person. If this is what’s going to happen to me when I walk down this path, then I must make a new path. If I cannot make a new path, then I must walk differently.”

This person is one of those who intellectually I “understand” but emotionally I cannot “palpate”.

I cannot feel “who” this person is even when I understand all the words of wisdom coming from this person.

That’s the only way I can describe it: this person is trying so hard to protect a self (or soul) but in the process the person loses that self / soul.

Image by Robert ProksaMany of you may fear your walk in the emotional landscape of life because of the fall.

The fall is what happens when something is torn — a sacred trust is ripped.

Someone lied to you or hurt you, a friend who turned out to not be a friend.

You taste the bitterness of betrayal — your perception of yourself as “whole” is prodded by stress.

This is where many of us stay, afraid to get back up, afraid to get hurt again.

Our muscles are built by microscopic tears imposed by stress. There is a process to strengthen our muscles, and I have come to see our emotional resilience as being built a similar way.

When your emotions are torn, you need recovery / healing time. Give yourself permission to recover and while you’re healing, sort through what happened that created the injury.

Accept that feelings of shame can “occur” when you sort it through, one of those “How can I have let this happen to me?” (because you’re human), “How can I have trusted this person who has hurt me so?” (because you’re human).

DO NOT TURN AWAY FROM SHAME. Shame gets strength from silence and secrecy and it will hunt you down and haunt your heart and harden you into the person I had met, the kind of person I knew I do not want to become.

You face shame and meet it, as you are, and let it pierce through you until you remember the feeling “this is how shame feels like” and each time it knocks you down, don’t think about it, you summon your leg one at a time to move until you get back up and you are standing.

The way this plays out in real life is like this: you get back into connecting with human beings, trusting them as whole and unbroken, while keeping an objective clear eye about whether they are trustworthy.

I’ll tell you straight up, again: the way you become emotionally stronger is to weather an emotional injury, survive this injury while believing that you-the-self remains whole and intact, and then — most importantly — get back into the game with the same depth and courage you started with before you got hurt.

You do not shy away from human beings making mistakes sometimes hurting you by accident.

You protect yourself from human beings who has been hardened by shame and who sucks the life force out of you trying to replenish their own.

You allow the little hurts and surviving the big betrayals, all the while learning how to navigate yourself among human beings who are trying to do the same thing: survive emotional tears with their own souls, intact.

But you only become emotionally stronger when you keep engaging with human beings, not disengaging from feeling, disengaging from trust, and disengaging from life.

I have seen the shells of humans who have disengaged, and while their shells are so iridescently beautiful, their souls are gone.

Written by Jane Chin

January 26th, 2013 at 4:47 pm