The Resilience Frame

The Resilience Frame

So I had my April blog mostly ready to go with just a couple more edits before posting. This morning I changed my mind. Some details have been changed to protect privacy but the essence of the following is true. In an early appointment I was speaking with a person for the second time. She had told me the basics of her story in the first session but fleshed it out a lot more today. For almost the full hour she told me of a terrible series of events in her life from several years ago. Her upbringing was not super great but in her memory, that horrific time in her young adulthood brought the core trauma of her life. I try not to get emotional with my clients and their stories mostly because I don’t want them to have to worry about managing me while they are dealing with themselves. I kept my composure but not easily.

At the end of her story there was a moment of quiet in the room. Then I said to her, “I can hardly believe how resilient you are.” That was followed by an even longer silence until she quietly said, “I never thought about it like that before.”

She had never thought about it like that before. She almost died many times in this series of events and yet here she was. She has a happy family and a pretty good life now and she had never thought about it like that before. Her belief (and understandably so) is that this stuff had damaged her irrevocably and that she was thus, damaged goods. Her belief is that it is just by luck that things turned out ok. Her belief was that she was being weak because she sometimes remembers the bad stuff and feels like she is right back there. She had never put the resilience frame around it until this morning. At the very end she said, “I’m going to have to think about that.”

I said to her, and I say to some of you, please think about that. Some of you have been through awful things. Some have seen horrible things in war. Some have been through personal and familial tragedies. Some have survived bad diseases and some continue to fight them. Some have been through difficult divorces and terrifying financial crises. Some have been at the bedside of loved ones who have passed on too soon. Some have had to watch helplessly as a child has chosen drugs or crime. Yet, here you are. You’re still standing. The horror you have been through is real but please remember that just because you still deal with it, you are not weak. Just because you cry into your pillow sometimes or have terrible dreams does not make you unworthy and unlovable damaged goods. Maybe it’s better to say, “Wow. Look how resilient you are. You are so strong to have gotten through all that. I know it’s hard every day but your amazing resilience has gotten you here and maybe can take you even further.”