Jane's Mental Health Source Page

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

Emotional Resilience

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Emotional resilience has less to do with “being more positive” and “cheering up self” and more to do with (a combination of):

  • how you have learned to respond to others’ behaviors toward you,
  • how you have been conditioned to view/feel about yourself, and
  • how you naturally are made to “feel how you exist”.

Why should we care about how we are wired or made? Because some of us can hear the exact same statement and have very different responses. For example, when a statement is made thus: “You are a piece of sh*t!” some range of responses may include:

  • “What the hell is wrong with that guy, must be having a bad day.”
  • “No, YOU are a piece of sh*t and if you keep this up I’m going to beat you down!”
  • “I am a piece of sh*t… who else knows?”

The above are generalized examples but you may be familiar with the self-perspective that goes with each type of response.

I assume that you as a self-aware and intelligent being already know the logic behind “don’t worry about what other people think of you” and maybe you have even heard of the quip, “what you think of me is none of my business.” I certainly have. To be honest, these clever quips combined with my intellect had ZERO effect on my ability to manage how my feelings work.

So what can be done?

First, learn to catch the precursor to the feelings and begin to challenge the precursor (beliefs). Become extremely aware of how your feelings are tied to the responses to other people’s behaviors and then how these responses are linked to a specific message you have been feeding on “auto-play.”

If someone says you are a horrible person and you immediately believe this, become alert to this “automatic response” within yourself and the belief that you are horrible (usually as a function of “worthless”). After some practice you get adept at catching the automatic response.

When you catch this internal response, begin to challenge the beliefs. If the belief is you are a horrible person, challenge this: “Really? Am I a truly horrible person? Am I stealing toys from babies? Am I deliberately tripping old people and laughing at them when they are falling?” Get creative and think of all the ways you can be horrible and then listen to whether you are really doing these things. Chances are good that you aren’t stealing from children or tripping the elderly or doing actually horrible things on a daily basis. This way you get to see how biased and baseless some of your internal beliefs may be.

Second, deliberately surround yourself with nice people. People who are courteous and considerate in general. People who treat you nicely and give you genuine compliments. This is important to get some counter balance in outside perspective if you happen to have mean people or bullies in your life (that you cannot rid yourself of yet). Learn to say “thank you” to compliments and believe in these compliments because you can vouch for the quality of people giving you the compliments.

Eventually, you are looking to build a balance sheet of external feedback that are affecting your feelings. When you have as many people giving you positive feedback as you have negative feedback, at least you are giving your rational mind a fair shot at assessing the true picture of the way you are as a person. Again, unless you are stealing from babies and breaking old people’s bones, most of the negative beliefs you hold may be caricatures of mean-spirited remarks from mean-spirited people.

Third, set yourself up to make progress. I think we are fed a lot of bullsh*t about what it means to become more emotionally resilient, even those of us who may “suffer” from empathy. I am not a person who will ever have a thick skin, and if I set the goal to “grow thick skin” I am setting myself up to fail.

Instead, I have learned to look at whether I can “bounce back sooner than I used to.” I look at whether I have learned to fall down “smarter” (maybe bracing my feelings so that I don’t let myself get completely destroyed, but still feel bad because I feel intensely to begin with). I look at how my speed of catching negative beliefs have improved, and the tools I have developed to deal and manage those. Progress like this is as valid as “success” in personal growth as a very sensitive person.

A final word: If you think that you may be suffering from a medical condition like clinical depression that makes worse your response to “ordinary insults”, please seek help.

Written by Jane

September 6th, 2014 at 9:56 am

Posted in Mental Health