Building emotional resilience. How to be unfuckwithable?
To be alive is to be at constant risk of facing intense pain. Hard things will happen to all of us. Buddha’s first noble truth said it well:
“Life is suffering.”
Unforeseen tragedy will strike
The people you love will eventually pass away, or become sick. Some things you’ve worked on for years will be stripped from you. You may have harrowing battles with your physical or mental health. Some of your dreams will crash and burn. And if miraculously, none of this happens to you in the first half of your life, it will happen to someone close to you, and they will need your support.
The list of adversities goes on. If you are a human, and you have lived for any number of years, inevitably something difficult has happened to you. You can’t control whether or not life throws challenging things at you (spoiler alert: it will.) But you can control how you respond to those things.
This insight is at the heart of many Buddhist teachings: Accept the inherent difficulty in life, or any given situation, and focus instead on your relationship to the adversity.
Because our interpretations of what happens, and attitudes toward it, are perhaps the only thing we can control. People squander so much time resisting adversity, wishing it would change, or dwelling on its presence.
The way that I see it, handling adversity is the master key to life. If you can do that, you become unfuckwithable. This whole ride feels so much smoother, and you drastically raise the upper limits of your success.
On this journey, you must be able to endure the storms and open yourself to becoming antifragile – where friction, shocks, and impacts are processed to make you stronger, wiser, and more creative. If you cannot, then the darker weather of life will only break your spirit down and ruin the fun in living.
This article is about how to do the former. Because at the core of these skills is something anybody can develop: Emotional resilience.
If you notice that you avoid difficult things, get easily flustered under pressure, or tailspin and lose control when bad news comes your way, this will help you immensely.
What Is Emotional Resilience?
It is your ability to adapt to and move through hard times.
It is the durability of an optimistic, accepting, productive state of mind. It means you are able to remain clear and resourceful in any situation and flip negatives into positives.
Emotional resilience is what has you able to take (almost) anything in stride, not freak out, and keep moving forward. I snuck the “almost” there because there’s no such thing as being bulletproof. We all have our moments, which is why other people are crucial in this as well. But the work of developing that support network is still in our hands as well.
There are simple things that you can do on a regular basis to build more emotional resilience. So, that when those challenging days occur, you will be able to handle them.
To give your direction a little more definition, let’s break down some of the key characteristics you’re aiming to develop. With these tools, you can come out on the other side of anything with more strength, wisdom, and confidence.
Core Traits of Emotionally Resilient People
1. Ability to appropriately rely on others
I mentioned above that we all need the support of a network sometimes. That’s because we are tribal creatures. For millions of years, we have leaned on each other for support. Appropriate reliance means that you’re not leaning too much, or not at all. There’s a healthy balance in the middle.
Related: 13 Things Emotionally Mature Men Do
Being at either extreme of completely co-dependent and completely isolated will cripple your emotional resilience. If you need to latch onto other people for everything, because you can’t walk alone, you’re just leeching off the resilience of others. But if you have no support, or you’re unwilling to get it, you will erode and break down from the inside out much faster. This often leads to self-destruction, in one form or another (ie. serious addiction, substance abuse, or suicide.)
2. Taking a bird’s eye view
In hard moments, you need to be able to zoom out and see the bigger picture. This isn’t about avoiding having to confront the difficulties and emotions at the moment. It’s basically remembering that “this too shall pass.” You know that everything is temporary – both the good and the bad.
This higher perspective is also part of what enables you to learn and create takeaways from adversity. In certain situations, you can see what could have been done differently to prevent something bad from happening. In others, you can see the way forward, understand what you’re about to learn, and how you’re going to be stronger for it.
This is your propeller. Without something inside of you pushing you forward, it’s easy to buckle under any pressure from life. Determination, or grit, implies an inner wanting to push back, to move forward and succeed. In essence, it is your will. Your will to live; your will to fight; your will to get back up and endure. Strong will power is a symptom of the next trait on the list…
4. Belief in yourself
Having the fundamental belief that you are capable and valuable will carry you through so much of life’s hardships. What causes people to snap in the face of adversity, or being reduced to a blubbering mess, is clutching onto thoughts like: “I can’t handle this,” or “It’s not worth it.”
Believing that you CAN, that you matter, and life itself matters, brings a sense of importance that you have to figure out how to stick around and thrive. It creates that internal drive and determination to do whatever it takes to make it through. Building your capability and self-confidence is one of the biggest components of emotional resilience, which we’ll talk about in a moment.
I’m not talking about Karen in HR, who skips into the office with her sugar-sweet, bubbly voice, announcing there are cupcakes in the break room because “it looks like everyone’s got a ‘case of the Mondays.’”
Positivity isn’t about shooting rainbows out of your ass. It’s about being able to see the upside in anything. Rather than marveling at what a shit sandwich you’ve been handed, you choose to recognize how the different aspects of it are going to make you grow, or challenge core parts of yourself.
Positivity allows you to see the gift in every challenge. It allows you to remember the inherent beauty and gift of life, even when you’re dealing with what seems like the ugliest parts of it.
So much of this world is steeped in negativity. It’s in the news that’s being pushed at you every day. And the horrendously small-minded, disrespectful blabbering and gossip that make up most of the social media and they lay-person’s small talk. Having a self-sustaining source of positivity established deep within yourself keeps you focused on the Truth, and on what matters, which is your health, success, and happiness.