I am always looking for ways to create resilience, especially for highly sensitive people. I want us to thrive in the world both as individuals and in relationships. I’ve seen significant research that shows how we interpret our lives makes us less or more resilient. If we take advantage of what happened to us rather than bemoan it, we lead healthier, more secure and content lives.
Have you known or read about a family that suffered from a traumatic experience but produced one child who suffered as the forever victim and one child who thrived? I’m really curious about the child who thrived. Did you know that twelve of our U.S. presidents lost their fathers while very young?
“There is no good or bad without us, there is only perception. There is the event itself and the story we tell ourselves about what it means.”
― Ryan Holiday, The Obstacle is the Way: The Timeless Art of Turning Adversity to Advantage
For some it seems, the obstacle is truly the way.
I’ve heard it said we only have control over our perceptions, decisions and actions. Perceptions are the foundation to all three. By creating a narrative that makes sense of everything that has happened to us and how it has strengthened us, we boost and change our perspective.
Personal coaches and therapists help clients change their perspective so they can move forward in their lives.
I often ask clients how a past misfortune changed them in a positive way. Perhaps their negligent parent caused them to be self-reliant and independent (sound familiar avoidant attachment types?). Perhaps their overly dependent parent taught them how to read people well and anticipate other’s needs.
Inborn sensitivity to threats matched with negligent parents makes it tough to establish security but there is hope for resilience.
Building a narrative helps.
We can view our sensitivity as a gift that gives us superior insight into other’s feelings, allowing for close connections through empathy. We can use our parent’s unavailability as a spur to develop personal grit and an independent nature.
For a long time, I’ve carried a sense of guilt about needing time to myself to write and recover energy. This guilt rears its head the most in the parenting realm.
When my marriage was ending and my writing began, I withdrew mentally and physically from the family sometimes to gather myself and create. I also was raised with a fair amount of autonomy, so naturally my parenting style resembles my parents.
A few comments my oldest son made recently, make me think perhaps I did not scar him as much as I think I did. He said he is glad I did not ‘baby’ him too much. He thinks it is OK to say no to your children once in a while. He said he is more independent than kids whose parents did everything for them.
He may not have felt my absence as deeply as I believe or he has built a positive narrative of his own.
You don’t have to write a book to get the full benefits of establishing a narrative —just think it through, share your story with a friend, or jot down thoughts in a notebook.
Putting your full-circle story together gives you a sense of peace and understanding that fortifies you against future ups and downs. New bumps in the road do not seems as intimidating. You’ve made lemonade out of lemons.
Your big picture perspective helps you make confident decisions and take action even when the action is uncomfortable.
You are the narrator of your story. You are no longer a victim.
Brenda Knowles is the creator of brendaknowles.com, the website where sensitive people go to build emotional and relationship resilience. She is also the author of The Quiet Rise of Introverts: 8 Practices for Living and Loving in a Noisy World. Check out the first chapter of The Quiet Rise for free by clicking here.