Pain is an inevitable part of being human. While we can’t escape difficult moments, we can meet them with resilience by asking key questions.
The quality of your life is determined by the quality of questions we ask ourselves. This was a key insight from Behavioural Scientist, Patrycja Slawuta, special guest at TEDxMelbourne’s June 2020 Circle, Still I Rise.
In conversation with Joanne Woo, TEDxMelbourne Curator, Patrycja explored strategies for tackling life’s challenges and reflected on messages from resilience expert Dr Lucy Hone’s TEDxChristchurch talk on ‘The three secrets of resilient people’.
Resilience is about meeting difficult moments, with our mind, heart, body and others, Patrycja shared with our 150 TED Circle guests. She then explained how these different areas are affected by stress and can be shifted with a resilient mindset.
When facing a difficult situation, we can approach the situation by asking ourselves, ‘What am I learning in this moment?’. Our brains are our most powerful resource and we can choose to reframe our painful experiences and wounds as opportunities to learn more about our inclinations and emotional responses.
In Dr Hone’s TEDxChristchurch talk, she said in testing situations that we should ask ourselves, “Is the way I’m acting easing or prolonging my pain?” We can consciously stop and examine our mindset and behaviours in times of stress, and re-orient to a path which leads away from pain.
By adopting a curious and open mindset, we can re-focus our mental energy on tapping into insights wrought by our traumatic experiences.
Our hearts respond to challenging moments in ways we least expect. Sometimes we become numb, overwhelmed or manage to stay present. By leaning into the pain with open hearts, we can discover our ‘window of tolerance’ for difficulty and discover our capacity for processing difficult emotions.
Breathing is a powerful regulator, and the body’s most potent mechanism for controlling and modulating the nervous system. The simple act of breathing, deeply, slowly, or more consciously, is a visceral way of calming yourself and is a physical way of meeting a moment of pain.
Patrycja explained that seeking the support of other people during a crisis is an effective method of bolstering your resilience during troubling times and allows you to tap into a ‘global immune system’.
Have you ever walked into a room full of lively conversation and clinking glasses, and felt immediately energised? This is an example of how humans can impact each others’ mood and emotional energy by mere exposure.
In a similar way, we can draw on the collective resilience of our social network, by talking to friends and family during difficult times. Your social connections form part of a ‘global immune system’ for resilience, which provides greater emotional support than you could find within yourself alone.
Patrycja also touched on the idea of ‘virality’ in acts of kindness and compassion. Is there a way to make one act of kindness and compassion spread throughout the community in an exponential manner? Why not start with a small act of generosity in your community and see where it leads.
Making space to support others
Many guests in the TED Circle asked how they could help their loved ones through tough times and share their own resilience. Patrycja noted that helping friends through difficult periods is about making a safe space for them to talk and feel listened to.
She noted that everyday we are alive, we are dealing with trauma. To help support others, we should get curious, not judgmental. That is, we should reframe our conversations with friends to genuinely explore their experiences, without filling the space with immediate value judgements.
Personally, we should also find an emotional balance in our own lives, by exploring the limits of our resilience and by choosing where to focus our energy.
We can exercise resilience everyday, by actively choosing how we meet the challenges that come our way.
Join our community at the next online TED Circle, by TEDxMelbourne.