Today we continue with The Gifts of Imperfection by Brene Brown and are talking about Guidepost #3– Cultivating a Resilient Spirit: Letting go of numbing and powerlessness. If you’ve missed any of our earlier discussions, you can find them by clicking on the introductory chapters, The things that get in the way and Guidepost #1 (Cultivating Authenticity), and Guidepost #2 (Cultivating Self-Compassion).
Several years ago when I was attending an annual conference called Mental Heath and M-work (the last word isn’t the real name of the conference, I trust you can crack the code), I attended a workshop on resiliency in m’s and don’t cha know, I wish like the dickens I could get my hands on the handouts. But, with all of the moves in this line of work, they are shredded and in a landmine in Asia. Rats!
One of the biggest take away’s from the workshop and this chapter is good news! Resiliency can be cultivated. Wouldn’t it be depressing if either you had or didn’t have resiliency?!
Looking at the list of the five most common factors of resilient people, there weren’t any big surprises there. What did surprise me (and Brene as well) was the connection between spirituality and resilience — and at the core of spirituality was the theme of connection. Now, Brene herself is a Christian, but as a researcher, as she’s said, she “just follows the research” and wasn’t fishing for this. If you haven’t had a chance to read this chapter, “from the foundation of spirituality, three other significant patterns emerged as being essential to resilience”:
1. Cultivating hope
“Hope is not an emotion; it’s a way of thinking or a cognitive process. Emotions play a supporting role, but hope is really a thought process.” Now, Brene seems to be referring to hope not in the way a believer would say “our hope is in God,” though those two types of hope are certainly cousins! And made me appreciate all of the scriptural references to hope. God wants us to be resilient and have hope! Isn’t that an encouraging thought?! If you’d like a small boost, here are 20 Biblical references to hope. Does hope come easily to you? I appreciate the way that Brene tied hopelessness to powerlessness.
2. Practicing critical awareness
“Practicing critical awareness is about reality-checking the messages and expectations that drive the ‘never good enough’ gremlins.” When I reread this in preparation for our discussion, I thought of one of the resources listed last week: ANTS (Automatic Negative Thoughts) and the importance made in scripture of hold every thought captive. Brene talked about how we are bombarded with messages and expectations about every aspect of our lives. And in our roles as cross-cultural workers we are getting messages from our home cultures, host cultures, and Christian cultures. Talk about the need to cultivate critical awareness so that we are focused on God and tuned into the Holy Spirit being the lead voice in our heads and hearts.
3. Letting go of numbing and taking the edge off vulnerability, discomfort, and pain.
“When I (Brene) interviewed the participants whom I described as living a Wholehearted life, they consistently talked about trying to feel the feelings, staying mindful about numbing behaviors, and trying to lean into the discomfort of hard emotions.” I know that each generation of cross-cultural workers has their own set of blessings and challenges, and for us, one of our two-edged swords is the internet. Part of prefield training nowadays focuses on the ways that escaping on the internet (through Facebook, Pinterest, mindless surfing, or watching TV) can be used to numb from the vulnerability, discomfort, and pain that comes from a life of cross-cultural service.
They can also be used for connecting and engaging! So, let’s not throw the baby out with the bath water :). I found Brene’s questions helpful. “After years of research, I’m convinced that we all numb and take the edge off: The question is, does our _______ get in the way of our authenticity? Does it stop us from being emotionally honest and setting boundaries and feeling like we’re enough? Does it keep us from staying out of judgment and from feeling connecting? Are we using ______ to hide or escape from the reality of our lives?”
Her principle on “When we numb the dark, we numb the light” was one of those a-ha moments for me when I first heard it. It makes sense, but I hadn’t had someone put words to what I’d sensed.
As usual, this chapter was packed full! It offers us quite a buffet to pick from for our discussion in the comments. I love these chats!
Next week: Guidepost #4 — Cultivating Gratitude and Joy
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