The Dark Side of Resilience

I have always been open with my struggles, with what I find hard. Partly because talking through or writing about my feelings and experiences helps me process them and partly because I want to help others by sharing my story vulnerably so they can feel safe with me and know that it’s okay to struggle.

Often I am described as resilient by people I know.

For example, when I tell people about my son being diagnosed with cancer.

These conversations and the data on resilience always portray it as a good trait, one to ascribe to and cultivate.

According to the American Psychological Association “Resilience is not a trait that people either have or do not have. It involves behaviors, thoughts and actions that can be learned and developed in anyone”

Last week, I was presented with a 180 view on resilience which has had me fermenting and cogitating and generally pondering my life. Especially since, this last 18 months for me has been beyond crappy in so many ways, a piling on of so many traumas that when I opened my eyes many mornings, I wished on some level that I had not.

Dr Zach Bush said to Rich Roll (listen to his podcasts BTW- he is a master, 7 years in), and I am paraphrasing:

“If you are resilient, and you acknowledge that trait proudly, and work hard to cultivate it, then you need stress and trauma in your life SO THAT YOU CAN BE resilient.”

OMG – did I create these events, because I am so freaking good at RESILIENCE?

And then the next day, I met a coach at an event whose whole coaching angle is creating and living with ease. Hmm – hello universe?!

So, yes, we want to cultivate resilience. BUT, be wary of what energy you put out into the world, because it might come right back and bite you. The energy we put out into the world introduces us – what energy are you putting out into the world?

For some more on energy, here’s a youtube video I made.

Misinformation, Measles, Mothers & Time Guilt: I am MAD.

Before I became a coach and an author, I was an academic, doing my PhD in a field which used quantitative data and my Post-doctoral fellowship in a field which used qualitative data.

I am comfortable and literate with data. Data have always held a strong place in my heart.

I, like many parents have been SHOCKED by the amount of misinformation out there about vaccinations and how many people have made uninformed decisions about vaccinations, based on ONE incorrect study about MMR and autism, which has lead to massive outbreaks in measles.

Recently, I came across a similar piece of misinformation, that, like the incorrect vaccination report, created massive ripples that are still in play today.

In the 1990s a University of Maryland time-use researcher, John Robinson INCORRECTLY produced statistics that stated that between 1965-1985 the amount of time mothers’ spent with their kids dropped by 40%. He realized his mistake, and issued a correction.

However, over 50 articles, and books and essays reproduced the error, which continues to be spread to this day (particularly by conservative, right wing media outlets).

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This stuff makes me SO mad. How about you?

In my 15 ½ years of being a mother, I have worked outside the home for over 13 of those years and have struggled with my feelings of guilt regarding how much time I am spending with my kids and whether I was doing the right kinds of activities with them. AND like the research says, until I started to fall apart in the late noughties, and went down the path of self-healing, training & helping others, I was doing all that at the behest of my own self-care.

So – I want to give you the gift of this knowledge –

YOU ARE DOING better than your parents generation and, your kids are doing better in a number of different spheres (e.g. school, taking less drugs, having less unprotected sex, more going to college etc) and life is good, you know?

Don’t let that ONE wrong piece of information push you off track. You deserve time for you AND some guilt-free time off!

Today is National Brothers & Sisters Day!

Sometimes our siblings are people we have grown up with and who we have created a lifelong connection. My brother is like that. We live different lives on different continents, but we connect with our 6 kids (total) at least once a year. His wife also feels like a sister to me – she is wickedly smart, kind, loving and humorous and makes my brother so happy. I adore her.

Sometimes our siblings are people we have met along the way and feel that deep sense of connection with. For me that usually requires living with the person or people. I have a Brazilian sister who was my au pair for a year, living with me and looking after my children and who is deeply woven in my life.

Who are the siblings in your life and do they know how much you love them?

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Connecting With Others Requires a New Kind of Listening: how to break the natural habit of our brains!

When I did a Non-Violent Communication training in 2014, as part of my Ayurveda certification training, we had to do some active listening techniques. We were paired up and set timers for 20 minutes. During this time, the talker had the floor and the listener could only respond with nods, smiles etc. We were told this was to stop our natural tendency to either a) problem solve and help the listener and b) commiserate, offer understanding based on our own experiences, both of which occur as you are listening, stopping you from REALLY listening.

Sarah and I were given an emotional prompt (I can’t remember exactly what it was, but I talked about how my son having cancer had affected me and my partner talked about how she and her husband had struggled to conceive, and the miscarriages, and how that lead them to adoption). Needless to say, these were super emotional topics for both of us!

What was profound was how we both felt so held and respected and heard and our connection to each other shifted deeply.

In the yogic/ayurvedic understanding of our human form, we have koshas or sheaths, the layers of which are stacked inside each other like a Russian doll: physical body, energetic/breath body, mental body, intuitive body, bliss body. Our energetic body – the pranamayakosha – extends beyond our physical space. This we know and understand – when you walk into a room, you can feel whether the person in it is happy, sad, angry – their energy extends to you! When we are totally present (not an easy task), we can exchange energy and listen with our whole integrated self – our physical body might nod, our eyes might communicate understanding. This is what Sarah and I were doing as we listened to each other.

In most of our interactions, this is not so easy.

We are engaged in promotional or transactional conversations – promoting a viewpoint (e.g. can we eat Chinese tonight? The Toyota is better than the Ford for reliability) or transacting information (e.g. I will get the kids at 3pm, okay?). In these conversations our brain’s natural proclivity to efficiency means that we are perceiving, evaluating input, making judgments and predicting outcomes all at the same time! Add to this the multi-tasking nature and over-stimulation of our current world and you have a recipe for never really, deeply, actively listening.

My natural desire to understand why that active listening technique I learned in 2014 was so profound was shut down because less than two weeks after returning from that training, my ex-husband walked out for the fourth and final time and the next few years were a flurry of moving, divorcing and lawyers and navigating our kids

Fast-forward to today and I am the Chief Habit Scientist: a published author, coach and speaker and I find that the habit of listening is deeply woven into my life. What’s interesting to me is that to listen deeply requires us to break our brain’s natural habit of efficiency. Habits are my jam. I love helping my clients establish habits that will serve them – channeling the brains natural efficiency. I also know that breaking habits is extremely hard – we know that from the addiction literature and the neuroscience (the myelination, like insulation, thickens as we repeat a habit, creating automation of a habit).

So – how can we navigate our brain’s natural tendency to efficiency and have those truly transformative conversations that yield deep connection between the participants and evolution for the individuals involved?

  1. Meditate: I could and have written pages about the myriad benefits of meditation, but here it’s about cultivating one-pointed focus and the practice of letting go and returning to the present.
  2. Journal: we are unaware of our inner monologue. Journaling allows us to see how we talk to ourselves, or think about other people, which is good to get a handle on, if you are going to listen without judgment.
  3. Stop multi-tasking & get outside: walk in nature. It reduces stress and boosts mood (especially depressive tendencies) which are important to get a handle on if you are going to listen to someone else.
  4. Do new exercises: get used to creating new mind-body habits (that involve all the sheaths of the body) and the resultant neural connections (rather than re-living old habits). Iyengar yoga is brilliant for this (can I press into the big toe mound and the outer heel, is it the same in both my feet? – while you are in a pretzel-ed position). Or take up a new activity – like tap dancing!
  5. Use the active listening technique with a timer: get together and set the topic and the timer. After each person has finished you can then reflect on the experience and ask them if they want input.

End of Year Reflections: Resolutions

Sit, reflect and write down your New Years Resolutions:

Focus on the positive – rather than negative.

Make them about loving yourself – actions that help you grow and evolve.

Don’t make them punitive – make them affirmative.

#stressmanagement #selfesteem #selfhelp #goodstress #healthyhabits #positivechange #cleanse #detox #plantbaseddiet #habits #forceofhabit #resolutions #selfgrowth #selflove

End of Year Reflections: Mental Growth

Take a chair and grab your journal:

What big meaty tasks did you take on this year?

How did you do?

What are you going to commit to for 2019? Reading 2 books/month? Learning Italian? Learning the guitar?

#stressmanagement #selfesteem #selfhelp #goodstress #healthyhabits #positivechange #cleanse #detox #plantbaseddiet #habits #forceofhabit #resolutions #selfgrowth #selflove

End of Year Reflections: New Hobbies

Grab a seat and quieten your mind and ask yourself:

Did you take on any new hobbies this year?

Did you stick with it? If not, why not?

Any new hobbies calling to you, to invest in in 2019?

#stressmanagement #selfesteem #selfhelp #goodstress #healthyhabits #positivechange #cleanse #detox #plantbaseddiet #habits #forceofhabit #resolutions #selfgrowth #selflove

End of Year Reflections: Gratitudes

Take a moment and sit with these questions:

Who impacted your life positively this year?

What did they do?

Did you thank them – do they know how grateful you are?

What events are you grateful for, that occurred this year?

What items in your life are you grateful for, that you got in 2018? How do they improve your life?

#stressmanagement #selfesteem #selfhelp #goodstress #healthyhabits #positivechange #cleanse #detox #plantbaseddiet #habits #forceofhabit #resolutions #selfgrowth #selflove

End of Year Reflections: Spiritual

Pull up a chair, grab your journal and take a seat. Check out these questions:

How did I evolve spiritually this year?

Did you take on any new practice? E.g. meditation or going to church or a Buddhist book study group?

What role does spirituality play in your life?

What goals do you have for spirituality for 2019?

#stressmanagement #selfesteem #selfhelp #goodstress #healthyhabits #positivechange #cleanse #detox #plantbaseddiet #habits #forceofhabit #resolutions #selfgrowth #selflove

End of Year Reflections: Physical

Grab a pen and your journal. Take a few minutes to reflect on these questions:

Did you meet your goals for your physical growth this year?

What did you achieve in your physical growth? Did you master a headstand in yoga? Did you bench press 200lbs? Did you become a black belt in Karate?

What goals do you have for next year?

#stressmanagement #selfesteem #selfhelp #goodstress #healthyhabits #positivechange #cleanse #detox #plantbaseddiet #habits #forceofhabit #resolutions #selfgrowth #selflove