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Resilience is a buzz word

Resilience. It’s a word used these days ad nauseum to describe a deficiency in the children of this generation. But is lack of resilience a curse of our times or something that has troubled people for centuries? Did people not cope with change, disagreements, disappointment or rejection in the past in the same way as we might not cope in the 21st century? What about in developing or war torn countries? Do we lack resilience in the face of First World Problems? Is it even fair to compare? Being told about starving children in Ethiopia never made me eat my unsavoury dinner any faster when I was a child. So telling me to cope with an event now because there are homeless orphans in Syria also does not ease my pain.

I sometimes wonder if refugees who have previously endured hardship, if when they enter our society, do they complain and melt down over the things that bother me – by an unexpected bill, being kept on hold by Telstra, a travel issue with Qantas, or by their nagging whingeing children crying because they can't get something from the shop.

It came up recently because I had some home damage called "escape of liquid” after my shower taps became loose, turned on to maximum while I was at work for the day and because I had a large thick bathmat over the drain, the water flooded the bathroom, adjoining carpeted bedroom, through the floor and through to the bedroom on the ground floor below, then through the ceiling and light fitting into that bedroom. The carpets, ceiling and electrics all need to be replaced. 4 weeks later and the insurance company is still deliberating over liability. Of course I believe I should be insured for the accidental damage and I pay thousands of dollars in premiums annually to help me in situations like this. If I am not covered, I will have to pay for all damages. There goes my savings, holiday plans for next year and makes me question the value of insurance.

So when I called the insurance company this week for an update I was filled with anxiety and had to properly prepare myself for a negative outcome and predict and assess what my reaction to that outcome would be. I have had 4 weeks of anxiety and mixed feelings about an outcome I have no control over and I am left hanging, waiting. So I question myself – how resilient am I?

I have been to seminars on resilience. Mainly based on children but I feel highly relevant to me as an adult and as a general practitioner. Many times I counsel adults on work or relationship issues where they are not coping with adversity, or are experiencing multiple triggers and are now finding dealing with small matters poorly, that is they have no resilience left.

Maybe we have not been taught resilience by our parents and we have also not been teaching our own children. Has it been getting worse and worse with each generation or has resilience always been a problem? I think we can only compare the same problem amongst different people – not compare different situations and problems between different generations. And in fact I believe people have been trying to become resilient for years.

A well known poem by Rudyard Kipling called If was written in 1895 and has become an anthem for resilience and determination for soldiers and sporting teams. There are Chinese and Japanese proverbs written about resilience and inspirations from Marcus Aurelius from “Meditations” written in c150AD.

What is resilience? It is how you respond to what happens to you, how you react and how you recover. How you choose to experience the unexpected and accept your new reality, even if its less good than the one you had before, and it is learning to overcome the disappointment.

Read my next blog on How to Practice Resilience or become more resilient…

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