LET’S FACE IT. The struggle is REAL. While some of us bounce back from tough situations more easily, the rest of us can get sucked in for weeks, months, and in the worst case scenario, life. Enter, the resilience theory.
Under all that flair of material excess, we all have our personal battles to overcome. Yet when it feels like everyone but you seems to have (sh)it together, consider this: growing up with issues like poverty, abuse, drugs, alcoholism, a serious illness or another seemingly catastrophic situation can actually make you ‘supernormal’.
Over fifty years ago, a book titled Cradles of Eminence: A Provocative Study of the Childhoods of Over 400 Famous Twentieth-Century Men and Women, pioneered this idea of the resilience theory, or the ‘supernormal’. The writers, Dr. Victor Goertzel along with his wife, Mildred George Goertzel analyzed and summarized the lives of numerous successful figures (like Louis Armstrong, Marie Curie, Eleanor Roosevelt, Henry Ford and John D. Rockefeller). The authors found that 75% of their 400 subjects dealt with severe adversity before they became familiar names in random conversations.
Now in a more contemporary version of the idea exploring the resilience theory, Dr. Meg Jay has brought it back into millennial territory with the book, Supernormal: The Untold Story of Adversity and Resilience. This book also explores personal accounts of those fighting adversity in all walks of life. Shockingly nearly 75% of our co-humans have been in someway traumatized in childhood, and even more shockingly more of them defy what they grow up in than not.
So what makes adversity so precious? It hones resilience. Those with years of practice in bouncing back from tough situations face it and get good at it. Once they break through and find themselves on level ground, they tend to seek out that fight or flight response stimulation for the adrenaline rush. Those who stay angry, blame the situation and give up may turn to crime, but those who rage against it by defying it get that rush from seeking out rare opportunities that lead to that ultimate success. Those scrappy fighters with a gritty demeanor who make it beyond their tough childhood also end up being more satisfied later in life. It’s probably easier to not miss the silver spoon if you never had one growing up.
How to build resilience:
- Pick up tangible challenges on your own. Get through a tough class, apply for that dream internship, get through P90X. Learning to face it through self inflicted challenges makes the emotional challenges easier.
- Stay in the present. Try not to spiral into overwhelming thoughts. The one step at a time approach really does work.
- Compartmentalize. Your brain is like a dresser with many drawers. What would happen if you were to open all of them at once? The dresser might topple if it has a poor foundation. Open one metaphorical drawer at a time, to deal with the issue at hand