Resilience is the ability to cope with and adapt to difficult situations, a squaring up to life and a fundamentally realistic concept that acknowledges the world as it is (extraordinarily rubbish at times). Adaptation is quite literally my favourite word in the English language. It reflects our real beauty as human beings, that we are driven to get on with life despite its horrors, loves, hates, losses and betrayals. It is not a character trait that people either possess or not – the ‘Resilience-Tick’ model – more something that we can utilize when things get tough.
The problem with resilience is that it’s a bit like losing your car keys, just seems to disappear exactly at the point that you need it. This is the resilience paradox.
When I’m scared it feels as if I’m driving a car and then suddenly my hands are off the wheel and I’m screaming like a sissy, losing sight of the fact that it’s me that took my hands off the steering wheel. That’s the nature of the paradox, that when we most need to find our resilience we start to feel like the idiot cousin who hasn’t passed their driving test. The trick here is to stop listing the things that you don’t have (I admit I have the driving skills of Barbara Cartland and subsequently don’t actually have a car) and to start looking in the right place for the keys. I’m tempted to call this Radical Resilience ™ but the use of cheap labeling might actually undermine the very political point I want to make here which is that being resilient means liberating something that’s within us, a deep sense of our own capacity to square up to our own problems. This is less about technical know-how, neurolinguistic programming, eating breakfast or learning to be optimistic, rather the recognition that we can do the driving ourselves.
It is a radical idea with huge emancipatory potential. If this sounds a bit too ideological to you allow yourself to liberate your resilience by drawing on your own and others’ experiences. Ask someone today how they survive work and allow yourself to listen to the answer. You might be surprised at how empowering this is for both of you. And whatever you do, don’t let go of the steering wheel.
Surviving Work Weekly is a production of The Resilience Space
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