Resilience: The Hidden Invitation of Exceptional Times

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As I write this, many people from all over the world have been “sheltering in place,” to one degree or another, for at least a month.

In that time, we have all been thrown into collective grief and shock, because the changes have happened so swiftly, so totally.

Every aspect of our lives have changed—forever.

Things will never be the same.

We need to grieve that. There are some days when grief looms large indeed for me.

Grief not only for what I’ve lost, but as a Highly Sensitive empath, I also feel the pain of countless others who are suffering.

Suffering the loss of loved ones. Loss of work. Loss of a business into which they have poured themselves.

And I can’t even think of the children who are abused, trapped in homes with parents who formerly could not bear the stress, and who now are at the breaking point.

Or other victims of domestic violence.

For everyone, a way of life has been changed forever, more or less, in one way or another.

How do we cope? Is there any way to come out of this crisis stronger?

I believe there is. If we can embrace the hidden invitations of this strange time, we will develop strengths that we can bring into the “new normal” we will soon, we hope, be able to forge. 

What we need is resilience. Here are two steps  to develop your resilience.

Step One: Find the Joy Amid the Suffering

The first hidden invitation, and a big part of the healing process, is to learn to find joy even in the midst of the suffering.

Joy? In the midst of suffering? Is that possible?

Yes, it is. It’s needed now more than ever. And the more we can do that, the more resilient we become.

That potential resilience may be THE greatest “disguised gift” of these unprecedented time.

So how do you do that?

Search for the gifts. I started keeping what I call a Gifts Journal back when I was in a post-partem depression after my daughter was born. It was part of the answer to my prayer, “How can I heal from this depression?”

I began to look for the things that felt like “gifts,” small or big. And I wrote them down. The practice actually led to my book, Abundant Gifts.

(Many call this a gratitude journal, and that’s fine. For me, “gifts journal” fit better, because it’s more personal. It really felt like a personal God daily strews gifts along my path, sometimes gifts chosen especially for me.)

Looking for the gifts and writing them down not only lifted me out of depression, it changed my life. Whereas before, my problems loomed in the foreground and joy lurked in the background (if it was in the picture at all), now it was reversed. The joy spots shone brighter than the problems.

Don’t we need this shift in perspective now more than ever?

Look for things and experiences that spark joy and appreciation, and write them down so you can go back to it. (More on that in a bit.)

Don’t despise the simplest of things. Really look at an object.

For instance, the other day, I noticed a patch of rainbow light on my kitchen wall. The source was a mystery at first, until I realized it was a reflection through my candlesticks that somehow made it onto my kitchen wall. This surprised me because the candlestick was in the dining room next to the kitchen. I don’t understand how the light bounced onto the kitchen wall, but I could appreciate it.

Then, I studied the candlestick. I love the way the glass is cut, so that even with no bright sunlight, there is a hint of a prism–if you really look.

Since you’re stuck at home, make a game of it: what objects in your home give you joy? Really look at one, and let the pleasure wash over you. Take a photo. Put it in your Gifts Journal, or start a scrapbook. Note the emotion it evokes. For me, the spot on the wall evoked wonder, a sense that beauty can happen at any moment, even if I knew not how.

This piece is important: allow yourself to feel that appreciation or wonder or joy for at least 20 seconds.

Why?

Because, as I learned from Julie Bjelland, our brains need at least 20 seconds to actually register a positive impression enough to overcome the automatic negative bias (ANB) that we naturally experience. (And, if you’re Highly Sensitive, that ANB is even stronger, as we’re the ones whose brains are wired to sense more things. We’re the ones who sense danger earlier than the other 80%, so we can warn them what’s ahead.)

Challenge: At the end of each day, jot down at least 3 things you appreciated that day. What felt like a gift? What sparked joy? As mentioned, you might also want to use a photograph, or draw something—anything to capture the moment and express the emotion. Ending your day with this positive focus will help you sleep better, and set you up for a good day following.

This next step is what will make you truly resilient. Use it whenever you are triggered into negative emotions.

Step Two: Heal the Trapped Emotions

Before you do this next step, grab your Gifts Journal and pick an appreciation moment or joy image to focus on.

There are two ways to heal the emotions that will get triggered, again and again, by these exceptional times. In fact, one of the hidden invitations of this time is to allow these unhealed wounds to surface, and heal all of it.

The key to both the options below is to allow yourself to fully feel both the “negative” and positive emotions fully.

Option 1: You may, of course, use The Healing Codes for this healing; they are a wonderful tool indeed. (Remember, there is a free, Coach-Guided Healing Code available for fear, anxiety, worry, and that out of control feeling.) Before saying your Prayer of Intention, allow yourself to let the feelings/memories you want to heal to rise up. Sit with them for a moment. Try to rate what comes up, if you can. Then, you can use your Gifts Journal to pick a Joy Image or Appreciation Moment to focus on while doing your Healing Code.

Option 2: Hold the Grief and Joy Together.

Sit quietly and let the negative feelings(s) come up. Don’t deny or repress them. Picture yourself holding those painful feelings in one hand, your non-dominant hand.

In the other, “grab onto and hold” one of your joy images or appreciation moment. Hold them both together: grief and joy. Sadness and appreciation. Negative feeling in non-dominant hand, positive in dominant hand.

Let the negative feelings well up but just notice them. Be a witness to them.

Now, turn your attention to what’s in your dominant hand, the joy image or appreciation memory. Savor for 20 seconds or more that gift.

Go back and forth, back and forth, grief and joy, until you feel like the negative emotion has washed over you and receded, and the positive has taken root. Sit with it until the joy shines brighter than the grief, or whatever other emotion you are processing.

As you sit there holding the feelings, see if you can also let yourself believe that God is also holding you. And that he is the one ever pointing you to joy, to the gifts he is placing along your path every day.

What you will find is your capacity for both the heights and the depths will be stretched. You will be resilient, able to handle whatever comes your way, the joys or the sorrows, and anything in between.

Being willing to surrender to that process of stretching is, perhaps, another one of the hidden invitations of this strange time.

It is the hidden hand of Grace outstretched to you. Will you take it?

“But blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD, whose confidence is in Him.

“He is like a tree planted by water, that sends out its roots by the stream, and does not fear when heat comes, for its leaves remain green, and is not anxious in the year of drought, for it does not cease to bear fruit.”–Jeremiah 17:7-8

 

Two  Postscripts to Deepen Your Experience

(Note that this podcast was posted on January 1, 2020. Before we really knew about COVID-19, at least in the U.S. But you may find it prescient.)

If you ever need more help, e.g. with healing the unhealed memories being triggered, just contact me at www.healingcodescoaching.com for some coaching.

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