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RISING ABOVE ADVERSITY


How to Strengthen Your Resilience Muscle by April Thompson


At one time or another, an estimated 70 percent of people experience a life-altering traumatic event, and most grow stronger from surviving it, according to decades of research by leading institutions like Harvard and Yale universities and the University of Pennsylvania. We can prepare now for life’s inevitable hurdles and setbacks by developing the skills and tools of resilience.





and co-author with Lee Daniel Kravetz of Supersurvivors: Te Surprising Link Between Suffering and Success. Such researchers have found that, like elastic stretched beyond its normal limits,


I


people oſten don’t just bounce back to their old form, but stretch and expand in new ways. Te pair conducted in-depth case studies of survivors of extreme traumatic experiences that went on to do bold things. Just one case in point: Aſter losing a leg in a car accident, college basketball player Casey Pieretti reinvented himself as a successful Hollywood stuntman. According to many studies, 60 to 80 percent of people grow in some way


from personal trauma, known as “post-traumatic growth”, according to Feldman. “It can be as simple as appreciating each day more. It can mean deepening relationships. It may result in a renewed sense of spirituality. Or, it might take one’s life in a dramatically different direction,” he says. Ila Eckhoff, a financial executive in New York


City, has experienced more than her share of challenges: developing cerebral palsy as a toddler, enduring 12 childhood surgeries, losing her mother at age 11 and four years ago, her husband. “All of the struggles and losses brought me here, now,” says Eckhoff. “Nobody ever said life was easy. We have greater appreciation for the things that we had to struggle to achieve.” Choosing self-directedness instead


of self-pity in the face of challenges dif- ferentiates those that thrive from those that merely survive, observes Catherine Morisset, a life coach from Ottawa, Canada, who specializes in resilience. “It’s taking responsibility for life and managing


28 NA Triangle www.natriangle.com


t’s an incredibly hopeful message: We can go through the most terrible things imaginable and still get through to a better place,” says David B. Feldman, asso- ciate professor of counseling psychology at California’s Santa Clara University


the way you want to live it. We all have choices, even in the face


of difficulty,” she says. Mastering an


Optimal Outlook “Challenges don’t define you. How you respond does,” remarks Doug Hensch, an executive coach and author of Positively Resilient: 5½ Secrets to Beat Stress, Overcome Obstacles, and Defeat Anxiety. He attests that having a growth mindset is vital, focusing on strengths without disregarding areas needing improvement. Maintaining a balanced out-


look that’s realistic, yet positive, enables individuals to move on


from trauma. For supersurvi- vors, being pragmatic serves them far better than a false sense of optimism about bad situations, Feldman found, saying, “Tey grieved losses, but thought realisti-


cally about what to do next.” “Optimism in the best sense is fo-


cusing on the positive without denying the negative, while focusing on what’s in your


Lightspring/Shutterstock.com


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