Photo ©RalfSkjerning (Used under license from Shutterstock.com)
I have been thinking a lot lately about resilience ~ the ability to withstand and recover from adversity, misfortune, and/or change. It often seems that resilience is in very short supply lately; sometimes it even seems that it is on the path to extinction.
Psychology often focuses on what is wrong with people and often fails to study what is right. Why do some people keep on trucking, no matter what obstacles appear in their path? Many people survive and even thrive despite unimaginably dire circumstances, and the factors that lead to such resilience should be studied, learned, and cultivated.
Perhaps this topic has been on my mind lately because I spend a good bit of my free time on Twitter. I have written about some of the pitfalls of Twitter before, but I did not address the resilience (or, rather, lack thereof) aspect.
Twitter seems to be a fertile breeding ground for discontent and strife. The smallest disagreement, even a simple difference of opinion, can escalate more quickly than wildfire, leaving all it touches singed.
As an example: Recently, my spouse, partner, and all-around sweetiepie responded to a Twitter conversation, commenting about the need for semantics and the importance of keeping language intact, rather than letting words run amok like drunken frat boys on spring break.
She was very direct in her wording (as she always is), but she was not cruel, nor was she personally insulting to the other woman involved in the conversation. Nonetheless, my spouse’s refusal to back down on her opinions in that particular disagreement led to the other woman actually threatening suicide because she said that she felt she was “being bullied” ~ after which she promptly disappeared for several days, creating much angst, worry, and upset among many people on Twitter. Fortunately, the woman reappeared several days later, unharmed.
(Important Note: Suicide is a terrible thing and every threat should be taken seriously, and if you, or anyone you know, are even thinking about suicide, please get help. Do NOT take such threats lightly…ever).
Anyway, back to the topic at hand: I am purposefully not naming the individual involved in this example, nor did I screencap the conversation (although doing so would have been quite helpful in demonstrating how quickly and seemingly out-of-the-blue that the situation escalated). The reason I am not doing that is because I truly don’t want to hurt/embarrass anyone, and I don’t want to cause any more turmoil for her or for anyone else.
But I purposefully used this (admittedly very extreme) example because it begs the following question: Is a stranger’s opinion on social media worth threatening to kill yourself over, and/or is it worth creating days of angst for yourself and for the people who genuinely care about you?
Answer: Of course not.
Here’s the thing: If you ever find yourself threatening suicide, or even becoming extremely upset, over anyone simply disagreeing with you about a hypothetical concept, it is time to question why.
The current cultural zeitgeist is one of political correctness and trigger warnings and anti-bullying campaigns galore. The message sent by this walking-on-eggshells climate is that people are too weak, too namby-pamby, too feeble, and too helpless to withstand the slightest hint of criticism, conflict, rejection, or disagreement.
And that message, sadly, is becoming so pervasive in society that people have incorrectly started believing it themselves.
The First Amendment guarantees that all Americans have the right to engage in Free Speech, but the current trend toward shaming/silencing anyone who dares to disagree with (or even question) the politically-correct-trend-du-jour is in itself (ironically!) a form of bullying.
People who subscribe to this unfortunate train of thought are saying, in effect: You must agree with me, validate me, praise me, accept and love me (and all my opinions)…or else you are a terrible bully who needs to be punished and silenced.
Disagreement (even vehement argument) isn’t bullying. If your opinions are viable and valid, they should be able to withstand scrutiny. If you are so locked-in to your opinion that you cannot tolerate questions or dissent, then perhaps you should question how well-founded your arguments really are.
Nobody ~ and I do actually mean nobody: not me, not my spouse, not your spouse, not your mother or your father or your siblings, not your teacher or preacher, not the President or the Pope ~ should ever be able to make you feel so vulnerable, powerless, angry, or upset that you disintegrate.
Life is hard, life is unfair. Bad things will happen to good people, and good things will happen to bad people. People won’t always approve of you, and people certainly won’t always agree with you. People often won’t say/do what you think they should. You will be severely and sadly disappointed if you believe otherwise.
1). Demands about self: “I must be perfect and be approved of and loved by others, or else I am worthless.”
2). Demands about others: “Other people must act the way I want them to act, or else, they are no good and therefore deserve to be punished.”
3). Demands about life: “The universe must give me what I want, and life must be easy, or else everything is terrible.“
Whenever we have a knee-jerk overreaction to a situation, it is likely that one (or more) of these irrational beliefs are lurking in the shadows behind the turmoil we are feeling.
Then is the time to bring these incorrect beliefs out into the spotlight, where they can be examined carefully, revealed to be the frauds that they are, and eventually discarded. This process will need to be repeated every time it happens, which will be an ongoing process.
Ideally, wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could all get to the point that we realize that we are enough just the way we are, and that we have the power within ourselves to choose how we feel and how we react in any situation?
So, next time someone is dissing us on Twitter or snarking at us on Facebook, let’s please try to remember this Victor Frankl quote: “Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.”