How many times have you faced misfortune and change that’s caused you difficulty? How many trials and tribulations have brought you down and caused you to fall? Were you open to them? How did you embrace them? Did you discover more confidence and resilience after you got over the difficulties and failures? How long did it take you to recover? What did you learn? Have these experiences served you? How much value and benefit has come through them?
As I reflect on my ability to recover and adjust easily from misfortune and change, I realize that the spectrum of successful and unsuccessful recovery is broad. In some situations we’re able to recover and bounce back quickly and easily. In other situations it can take years of emotional difficulty to come back from a reactive to a receptive mode of living. The difference tends to be in the magnitude of the loss, failure and change or, is it something else?
My answer to “How Resilient Are You?” would be: “It depends.” I suspect this might be the answer most of us would come up with. I also suspect that this answer could be a cop out for you and me because it would be justifying our inability to transcend and include the teaching. It could also be an excuse for our lack of awareness in seeing the benefit of the contrast and using it to keep us in our resistance; to ignore how we create the situation we’re suffering from.
What’s specified in the above quote is that we have to learn how to become resilient. In order to bounce back from misfortune, loss, failure and disappointment we have to become aware of the gift that it is. Maybe we have to know what we don’t want before we can know what we do want. Maybe we have to experience the “beautifully broad spectrum of the human experience” before we gain the ability to start over, grow wisdom and confidently go forward into the night.
In my life experience the greatest losses eventually became the fertile soil from which the greatest gains were made. The mis-takes I unconsciously made were hi-lighted and made clear to me in ways that were impossible to ignore. Sure, I could have read about them, heard of the experiences from others, received their advice but to really feel the lesson, take it in, learn from it; I had to experience it and do the physical, emotional, mental and spiritual work required.
One of my greatest losses was the loss of my wife to another man after only four years of marriage. Fortunately I’d studies Elizabeth Kubler-Ross’s work on death and dying. In her work she describes the various states one goes through in the death and dying process. It begins with Anger then moves to Denial, Bargaining and Depression. Once the process starts, these emotions continue to play out in all kinds of variations over the time you choose to allow them.
I remember relentlessly experiencing all these states continuously for two solid weeks without pause. I also remember remembering, at the end of my constant emotionally draining rant, that there was a final stage one could move into that was called Acceptance. The momentum of my emotional release slowed down enough for me to actually be fascinated by the thought and feeling of accepting and embracing the situation as a gift; to discover the valuable benefits in it.
This acceptance eventually brought me into re-alignment with my inner Being and everything changed. A year later my wife and I were back together and after forty years, we still are. Hmm.