Did you ever notice how resilient people – people who seem to be able to handle the ups and down in life, and not freak out under stress – are kind of, well zany?
Al Siebert, Ph.D., who has studied resiliency for many years found that one of the qualities of survivors is having what he calls “paradoxical personality traits.” This means being able to be one way and also the opposite – being mean and kind, selfish and altruistic, generous and stingy. People who read Siebert’s book report appreciating the “normalizing” of reading that it’s okay to be different depending upon the situation.
It does sound like a good survival trait doesn’t it? Because when hard times comes, or when change is as prevalent and continual as it is today, or our environments as multicultural as they are, we need lots of ways of “being” in order to have positive outcomes. What works with one person won’t work with the next, and what worked today won’t always work tomorrow.
Resiliency also requires a good bit of optimism, learned optimism, which isn’t 100% reality-based, particularly in situations where we have to do something. I always give the example in my Optimism Workshops where I ask the participants to envision Muhammed Ali going into the ring saying, “Well, I’m not sure, but I think I can beat this guy.” He would get clobbered. Far wiser, wouldn’t you agree, to go into the ring saying, “I am the Greatest”?
There’s a certain unpredictability to resilient survivors also because of these many traits and the optimism.
Reminds me of a great scene in the movie “Gardens of Stone,” where a character tells James Caan he knows we are going to win Viet Nam because helicopters are coming back to base with arrows in them. “How can they expect to win a war when they’re shooting arrows at a helicopter?”
James Caan's character counters: "How can you expect to beat someone who
will shoot an arrow at a helicopter?"
So off you go then, and shoot those arrows at those helicopters, if need be. You’ll keep ‘em guessing, and likely come out ahead.
Submitted by: Susan Dunn, MA Clinical Psychology, THE EQ COACH *
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