The Key to Personal Resilience

Even with decades of research and thousands of studies published in hundreds of professional journals, there’s still no single theory of resilience.

We can find specialists trained to help us with everything from physical resilience in endurance sports, for instance, to psychological resilience in business or emotional resilience in difficult relationships. The common denominator in all of these communities is trauma, and we don’t have to look very far to find sources of this in our lives. Although our social traumas stem from different sources, the characteristics that help us first to cope with the experiences, and then to find the resilience needed to transform ourselves beyond the experiences, are remarkably similar.

Six factors for resilience

There are a number of excellent resources available to guide us in this process. One that I’ve found to be especially useful in real-world situations is the National Victim Assistance Academy (NVAA). The training programs they’ve developed help victims transcend hurtful experiences through specific steps that create skills of resilience. One of the reasons I like the NVAA framework so much is that it addresses a broad landscape of physical, emotional, and spiritual needs, from the way we personally cope in stressful conditions to the way we deal with other people in times of stress. A representative summary of the key factors for resilience the NVAA have developed includes:

1. Knowledge of ourselves

2. A personal sense of hope

3. The ability to cope in a healthy way

4. Strong interpersonal relationships

5. Finding a personal meaning in life

+ The sixth factor

In addition to the five characteristics – there’s a sixth element to creating resilience that’s typically not included in the formal studies. Interestingly, however, it’s this single element that we find at the core of the most respected and ancient wisdom traditions. It’s also the window to the inner realm of our experience that leading-edge scientists now regard as the next great frontier in selfcare.

The sixth factor of personal resilience is the shift that we can create in our emotions to prepare our bodies for life’s extremes in a healthy way. This avenue of resilience lives in the heart.

The master organ

The brain regulates everything from when we wake up and go to sleep, to how much and how fast we grow, the strength of our immune system, and the functioning of the five senses that connect us with the world. Yet while the brain is certainly a big factor in the way we function – and we couldn’t do without it – we also know that the brain doesn’t act alone. It receives the instructions from another organ in the body, the very organ that our ancient and indigenous ancestors always told us was the key to life. The master organ of the body is the heart.

In each moment of every day, a conversation is taking place inside us that’s one of the most vital we will ever find ourselves engaged in. It’s the silent, often subconscious, and never-ending conversation of emotion-based signals between the heart and the brain.

The reason this conversation is so important is that the quality of the emotional signal the heart sends to the brain determines what kind of chemicals are released into our bodies. When we feel what we would typically call negative emotions (for instance, anger, hate, jealousy, and rage), the heart sends a signal to the brain that mirrors our feelings. Such emotions are irregular and chaotic, and this is precisely what the signals they send to the brain look like.

If you can envision a chart of the ups and downs for the stock market on a wild and volatile day, you’ll have an idea of the kind of signals we create in our hearts in times of such emotions. The human body interprets this kind of signal as stress, and sets into motion mechanisms to help us respond appropriately.

The stress from negative emotions increases the levels of cortisol and adrenaline in our bloodstreams, hormones that are often called stress hormones, which prepare us for a quick and powerful reaction to whatever is causing us stress. For our distant ancestors, this response would save them from an angry bear that had camped out in their cave, for example. When they felt that the threat was gone, their emotions shifted and the elevated levels of the stress hormones returned to the normal levels of everyday life. The key here is that the stress response is designed to be temporary and brief.

When it kicks in, we infuse our bodies with the chemistry needed to respond quickly and powerfully to that threat. It’s all about survival.

Just the way our hearts send our brains the signals of chaos when we feel negative emotions, positive emotions send another kind of signal to our brains that is more regular, more rhythmic, and orderly. In the presence of positive emotions, such as appreciation, gratitude, compassion, and caring, the brain releases a very different kind of chemistry into the body. When we feel a sense of well-being, the level of stress hormones in our bodies decreases, while the life-affirming chemistry of a powerful immune system with anti aging properties increases. The shift between the stress response and a feeling of well-being can happen quickly.

The reason I’m describing this phenomenon is because the techniques that are found to have such benefits upon our health are the same ones that create the resilience in our hearts. This is the key to personal resilience in life.

From Turning Point by Gregg Braden
© 2013, published in the UK by Hay House.

THE TURNING POINT
by Gregg Braden

We live in a time of extremes. Gregg Braden brings the good news that nature gives us the key to turn the frightening Tipping Points of such extremes into life-affirming Turning Points of transformation. All that stands between the suffering of the present and the world transformed is the shift in thinking that allows the existing solutions into our lives.Click here to buy.