Resilience

resiliencePhoto ©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.

Albert Ellis  listed  3 major “musts” which are irrational beliefs that underlie the majority of our emotional turmoil.  In brief, these 3 irrational “musts” that we tell ourselves are:

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.”

6 thoughts on “Resilience

  1. This made me think on lots of levels – about the (relative) freedom of speech, and tge changing field or communication and debate; about personal, relational and social responsibility; individualising and context; the continual and I think necessary tension between these; the times I have felt at breaking point and how taking time to breathe and respond then (rather than react/ collapse) with whatever last straw I might be facing however small has simply not been within my awareness or grasp and yet when it is within my grasp (as it more often is) then it really helps me. Hmm – thanks.

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    • Thanks for your comments, emilyskyepoet! Yes, there are many, many facets to this topic, and what I wrote was basically just a general overview of the concept of analyzing why we get upset and then taking responsibility for our own responses. Of course, I don’t mean to imply that it is ever simple to do so, or that the reasons behind our initial responses are simple. But I have noticed that there is often some variation(s) of the “3 musts” irrational beliefs behind most knee-jerk overreactions. For me, I will have an initial “collapse” reaction to a message that I initially interpret as a variation of the message I received from my mother that I am “not good enough” and I have to be aware and tread very carefully when I feel that response in myself. I think if there is some message we have received in the past that we are more likely to be “triggered” by something that brings up those old feelings of inadequacy or helplessness (etc.). Also, for me, if I am hungry, I am much more likely to get upset, and noticing I am hungry and taking care of it is imperative to avoid unnecessary angst. And there are many more facets to explore, as you mentioned: the importance of social responsibility, the impact of community, the changing landscape of communication, the problems with online communication, etc. Thanks as always for your thoughts — always provides me with more food for thought! 🙂

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  2. I know this is old, but I just wanted to say I agree 100%. It may be overreacting to call disagreement bullying, which it is…but you know what can truly be traumatic? Being dogpiled by dozens, sometimes hundreds, sometimes even thousands of strangers, people that you thought were on your side or at least reasonable. Over something totally trivial and idiotic. Being misunderstood, sometimes on purpose. Having your character slandered and having ridiculous accusations made against you (for example, I was compared to the KKK on a libfem site for making the argument that private businesses have a right to establish dress codes and ask that certain activities take place in certain areas on said property. No lie.) People making threats of rape, assault or death. People saying they are doing to doxx you, boycott your business, find other ways to make your life a living hell. Not having the chance to defend yourself. And having this go on for months at a time, and resurfacing just when you thought it was over. If it was one or two people being outrageous once in a while, it would be different, but what goes on on Twitter and Tumblr is serious, prolonged harassment. And those who say, it’s just people online, don’t let it bother you? Try being on the receiving end of this. And how do you know it’s just people online? These people could be in your area and have every intention of turning their threats into reality. And even if the activity remains online, that’s more than enough to harm your career, steal your identity, etc.

    And for what? Not using the right pronouns? It’s as you said…the desire to oppose bullying all too often becomes bullying in and of itself, far worse than the original “bullying” that spurred the campaign.

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    • Hi! Good points! Yes, I agree that there are certainly actual serious cases of bullying (threats, etc.) that are over-the-top and those cases indeed do require attention. We also have to be cautious and alert when interacting with strangers; people often aren’t who they say they are online. The main thing is determining what is “just” a disagreement of opinion (as in the example in my post) versus dealing with someone who is engaging in threatening or harassing behavior. I absolutely love the book “The Gift of Fear” by Gavin de Becker, which illustrates what sorts of things to be alert to regarding potential dangers.

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  3. The problem lies in the fact that no one wants to make the distinction. If you don’t want to hear what someone else is saying, or people fail to cater to you in a way that satisfies you…just claim that you are being bullied or harassed. That way, there is no way to object without you looking like the bad guy and that person has the moral high ground to shut you out. I had this happen to me all the time when I blogged with the libfem crowd. Anything remotely conservative, religious, not in line with their version of feminism, anything “transphobic,” basically anything I wanted to say that actually distinguished me from other bloggers made me a target. And now, I am a rape apologist, a slut-shamer, a radical right winger, a racist, a misogynist, an abuser, a gaslighter, and too many more names to count. I doubt that Dirt would sustain a campaign of harassment against anyone. She won’t approach you if you don’t approach her. It sounds like she had a problem with Dirt and instead of dealing with it, she made it Dirt’s problem. This is why I avoid Twitter and Tumblr like the plague. It’s waay too easy for a “problem” word to become a mass dogpile and I just don’t have time for it. If women want to know why we are where we are, try looking at the victim mentality that we have chosen to foster with “safe spaces” and “trigger warnings” and basically creating a bubble around us rather than rupturing the bubble around patriarchy.

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    • I know exactly what you mean, especially about Twitter. My personal pet peeve is people who block you without discussion because you’ve said something they disagree with, then go on a sub-tweeting frenzy behind your back under the mistaken impression you cannot see it. (Duh! Unless a person has got Twitter set to “private”, all a blocked person needs to do is sign out, and Voila ~ there are all the “hidden” tweets). I mean, really, just say it outright or shut up, IMHO. Backstabbing, gossip, attacking rather than listening, blocking whenever you encounter an opinion you don’t like, etc. are all passive-aggressive behaviors that do nothing to further ANY cause. And, yes, I like what you said about how “trigger warnings” and “safe spaces” are only succeeding in insulating people in a giant bubble away from reality, rather than “rupturing the bubble around patriarchy” (I like that wording!).

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