My Lack of Resilience and Powerful Inability to Cope

I am not a strong coper.  This fact is well known to colleagues, family, and anyone else who has witnessed my reactions to minor illness, the threat of bedbugs, species extinction, failed projects, bad things happening to children and animals, and most things that Stephen Harper has done while in office.  Many people are able to take a wait-and-see attitude with things and deal with adversity as it arises.  I, on the other hand, fret about things long before and after they happen, if they happen at all.

Wishing to be proactive and to arm myself against future trauma, I recently began reading Resilience: The Science of Mastering Life’s Greatest Challenges (by Steven Southwick and Dennis Charney. 2012).  The authors’ research involved speaking with people who had not only endured the seemingly unendurable, but who appeared to thrive after experiencing POW camps, war, or sexual assault.  Among the people interviewed, the authors found that the survivors had 10 key “resilience factors” in common: 1. realistic optimism, 2. facing fear, 3. moral compass, 4. religion and spirituality, 5. social support, 6. resilient role models, 7. physical fitness, 8. brain fitness, 9. cognitive and emotional flexibility, and 10. meaning and purpose.

Given my aforementioned lack of stoicism in all matters, I thought I would search for the presence of these factors in myself.  If you have read The Whale Weeps ever before today, you will already have an inkling that I will not fare well in all categories, to say the least.

I would love to say that my life is characterized by realistic optimism.  I believe I am realistic, but this leads me down a path most definitely not optimistic.  For the love of pearl there is an island of plastic larger than Texas floating in the Pacific Ocean!!  The population of the earth has long passed its carrying capacity.  Radioactive waste and oil gush into the ocean by the second.  People care what other people wear on the red carpet of the Academy Awards!  How does this realistically look as if it bodes well for us all and for the planet?

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Facing fear is no friend of mine either.  How do people do it?  When I am scared, my favorite countermeasures include sleeping, playing online Spades, and otherwise diverting my attention (yes, I, shamefully, am one who keeps TV’s Match Game afloat).  These tactics are equally ineffective in my bid to work through frightening things and to strengthen my character.  A brave person sees scary situations as an opportunity to confront and tame, to punch terror in the nut-sack.  Not I, friends.  Not I.

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