Our world faces enormous changes such as people from the Middle East drowning in an attempt to escape oppression, economic upheavals within the EU, confusing and contradictory pledges from all the main political parties in the run up to election and of course, Climate Change; these are just a few examples. In other words the future can seem chaotic and scary. So how do we help ourselves? How can we build personal and community resilience and help ourselves perceive our world in a positive, hopeful and creative way? A couple of books that have helped me and are particularly relevant are ‘Positive Psychology’ by Miriam Acktar and ‘Find Your Power’ by Dr Chris Johnstone.
The word Kawa is Japanese for “river” and the river metaphor can be used to look at personal issues including resilience and personal adaptability (see www.jengash.co.uk/kawa). Barbara Frederickson in her book, ‘Positivity’ adopts this metaphor when she speaks about the condition of the riverbed and compares it with our emotional ‘take’ on our world (Is the glass half empty or half full?) How do we look at life – how does the unique and developing ‘lens’ through which we view our life journey or ‘river’ relate to the ‘river bed’?
Building up and strengthening this metaphorical river bed so that when we face change or challenge, we don’t hit the shallows or founder upon rocks is very important at this time. We make the choice to cooperate and help the ‘river’ to flow and enable our journey and indeed build muscle as we meet new challenges. ‘Moving a river might be slightly easier than moving a mountain’, Frederickson says, but it still requires intention, perseverance and commitment.
There are many ways to help ourselves become more resilient. For myself I’ve found journalling regularly supports, nurtures and builds my ability to respond rather than react. Somehow order emerges from the chaos of the daily multitude of emotional and mental demands. Without order and clarity and the realisation that my thoughts feed my emotions and feelings, for me journalling acts almost like a personal meditation that clears away the debris that otherwise would clutter my ‘riverbed’.
However to develop the regular daily practice requires me to draw on my inner will, intention and commitment so that I prioritise this above the demands of the ego personality – I ignore the ‘must’s, should’s and oughts’ demanding attention! I’m deeply indebted to Julia Cameron’s book, ‘The Artist’s Way’ that I discovered at a time when my personal riverbed was in need of a lot of maintenance and certainly a time to deepen my resilience. My journalling practice helps me to clear the weeds, creates focus and helps me adapt to the changing world I perceive as I adjust my ‘lens’ on life. Our unique ‘take’ on the world or our ‘lens’ supported by deepening self knowledge and growth of self awareness helps strengthen and support.
When our riverbed has poor foundations – when we continually disturb it with negativity and fear, it doesn’t deepen but instead erodes and we can get stuck in the shallows or founder on the rocks and our energy leaks away. When we accept that life is about change and that we can choose to respond positively, as we become self reflective and our self awareness deepens, so does our riverbed. We begin to build inner resilience by discovering and drawing on our inner resources and taking back our power. We see more widely and create more options.
This choice to respond positively, this commitment to stay with our choice and take time for our personal growth and so deepen our resilience, isn’t selfish. Indeed at this time of great challenge and change making the decision to become willing to discover and take back our personal power has never been so vital.