9 Habits of Resilient People (No. 8)

This is the eighth in a series of articles on resilience.

The eighth habit is: Resilient people take ownership.

What this means is that resilient people take total responsibility for what happens to them. Another way of putting this is that resilient people do not become victims or succumb to self-pity.

This does not mean that ownership for what happens means that you are always the cause of what happened. It may be (partly) your fault if you lost your job, or your relationship, or got into debt. But you aren’t the reason for an airplane crash, a terroristic attack, or the cancer that killed your mother. But in either case you can decide how you are going to respond.

Let us also make a distinction between a reaction and a response. A reaction is usually automatic and predictable and woeful. A response is something that is planned, thoughtful and focused. Reactions may take any of the following courses:

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9 Habits of Resilient People (No. 6)

This is the sixth in a series of articles on resilience.

The sixth habit is:

Resilient people practice self-renewal.

By self-renewal I mean that resilient people are never satisfied with the status quo; they are always looking for new horizons. Another way of putting this is that resilient people are continually re-inventing themselves.

Many of you reading this article may recall someone you know who mysteriously gave up their lucrative job in banking, or law, or in industry and went on a trip round the world (or went on a retreat in India, or built a house, or started a charity, or retrained as a teacher, etc.). I can guarantee you that that person is well-equipped to handle life’s disasters. For one thing they have shown already is that they are able to give up their attachments and start over again.

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A New Map of the Mind

It is now practically a cliche, and has been so ever since Howard Gardner published his work on the 7 different types of Intelligence, that we human beings possess multiple minds. Of which the ‘Rational Mind’ and ‘Emotional Mind’ are perhaps the most familiar.

I was thinking about this fact when one of my clients reminded me of the ‘Rational Mind – Emotional Mind – Wise Mind’ scheme which (I think) was first sketched by Marsha Linehan – the founder of Dialectical-Behaviour Therapy. DBT is the treatment of choice for Borderline Personality Disorder and in my view is a very powerful model indeed and I have great respect for Linehan’s work. The purpose of the model is to help people with Borderline Personality Disorder stay in ‘Wise Mind’, avoiding over-analytical thinking and ‘irrational’ emotions and retaining Mindfulness. This is a good strategy for people who are overwhelmed by anxiety, bad moods and tantrums but I think it is too negative about the Rational Mind and the Emotional Mind. It also leaves out ‘Bodymind’ – the real source of emotional intelligence.

So here is my own model:
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How to make that breakthrough

Breakthrough

My good friend and collaborator Mark McGuinness recently alerted me to a stimulating new book by Steven Pressfield called Do The Work which is about a subject dear to my heart: how to overcome Headmind when it is messing your life up.

I was doubly intrigued because Steven Pressfield once wrote a powerful historical novel about the 300 Spartans at Thermopylae called Gates of Fire – one of the very few books of that kind which had me (and my wife) in tears by the end.

Taking time off from writing fiction Steven’s new, very short, book is about how to achieve your goals when you don’t think you can.

The premise is simple: whenever you work on a project that is really important to you, but which is going to take time, hard work, and personal sacrifice then you are going to hit a wave of resistance. And that resistance comes not from outside but from within;  your own personal version of Headmind in fact: doubts, excuses, distractions, worries, whinges, procrastination, or so-called ‘low self-esteem’ – in which Headmind keeps on repeating the mantra that there is no point in your doing anything very much because it is bound to end in failure.

The solution is also simple: just do it. Once you have decided that the project really is important to you then you ignore Headmind when it is trying to do you down and sabotage your goals. Specifically, you ignore the Chatterbox. Or just tell it to shut the fuck up while you get on with things.

Here are some examples from the world of Therapy:

You are working on your recovery from Depression and you have decided to get out more. The Inner Voice says ‘what’s the point?’. Your response: go ahead and call a friend and make that date regardless.

You are working on Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and you have decided to increase your morning exercise routine to 10 minutes. Your Internal Saboteur says: ‘you’ll make yourself ill’. Your response: increase it to 15 minutes.

You are working on Anxiety. Your Internal Control Freak says: ‘I worry that you won’t be able to stop worrying because you have been a worrier all your life….’. Your response: you focus your attention on a non-worrisome activity for the next few hours.

One difference between using Steven’s method on creative work, and using it on personal problems is this: in creative work you just get on with the project (for example: your next novel, or work idea, house redesign, etc.). In that way you force Headmind to get on with doing something useful.

Whereas if you are depressed, anxious, obsessional, etc., you may need to give Headmind some substitute activities to do. A good example relates to giving up drug/alcohol/cigarette/ gambling addictions. Whenever the Internal Saboteur twitters on about needing a fix/drink/fag/bet then you just do a 180 degree attention turn and go off and do something more worthwhile. My experience with my clients is that when they do this repeatedly, then over the ensuing weeks that Internal Voice will gradually dwindle away to a whisper.

Image by permission of Fuyoh

How not to be a slave

Bound

This is the fourth, and final article, on how to become the person you always were. Or, to use another terminology, to exercise your Personal Genius.

The first article in the series was Why it’s ok to be a bit weird, the second was How to be strange and the third was How to be unique.

This one is about how to get free of personal slavery. For, so long as you are a slave to opinions, to convention, to other people, to your ego, or to routine, then you cannot really be you.

For some free spirits slavery to convention is the worst. Which means doing what your parents and teachers always told you to do; or following along the mores of what the ‘right’ people do – the people you went to school with, or the people in your church, your company, your club, your neighbourhood and so forth. So that you end up speaking with the same accent, dressing the same way, behaving the same way, and, what is most despicable – judging, excluding or persecuting people who don’t follow that same ‘right’ way of life.

For other fans of enlightenment slavery to opinion is the worst. That means thinking the same way as the majority. Sharing the same newspapers, the same TV programs, the same politics, the same religion and the same prejudices. And although I don’t read newspapers, rarely watch TV, don’t vote and don’t subscribe to any single religion, I certainly agree that Headmind slavery can be a problem. In this respect I remind my readers that dumb thinking is one sure path to unhappiness and illness, as well as slavery.

Sceptics throughout history have argued that slavery to gurus is pretty bad too. But since I have also written about that subject in a prior blog article I won’t go over that ground again here. Likewise I have also written elsewhere about slavery to personal ‘bananas’, the ego, and personality.

Now I agree that if you really want to be someone worth paying attention to then you are going to have to ruthlessly discard conventions, ideas and obsessions you have always taken for granted. You are also going to have to get out of your comfort zone.  Although that is hard work (the work of a life-time, in fact) the rewards – in terms of personal fulfilment – are unspeakable.

But, for me, the worst form of slavery is the one most of us take for granted. And that is slavery to routine: doing the same things, in the same way, at the same time, in the same place, with the same people, every day. Right down to the way you dress yourself, eat your food, drive your car, do the shopping, surf the internet, walk the dog, take a nap, smoke cigarettes, have a drink and so on and on and on. So that life becomes a kind of mechanical, living death. So that you go to sleep and stay there. So that life just passes you by without you ever really exercising Awareness.

The reason this is the worst kind of slavery is that, in it, Bodymind dies slowly. And when that happens the brain loses neuroplasticity. Which means that the cells in the brain (as well as those 2 trillion cells in the body that communicate to it) either die off or become rigid. Which, in turn, means that you become a zombie incapable of changing, evolving, or learning anything new.

For me, slavery to habit is the basis for all the other kinds of slavery mentioned above. Simply because it keeps you asleep. Avoiding premature death is hard work but it is simple too. All you have to do is break one habit every day.

 

Most people are other people.  Their thoughts are someone else’s opinions, their lives a mimicry, their passions a quotation. Oscar Wilde.

 

 

How to be unique

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This is a continuation of my series on becoming the person you were always meant to be. The last article in the series was How to be strange. And the one before that was Why it’s ok to be a bit weird.

A second way to be strange, weird or unique is to be an incontrovertible expert in something. Or in two things. Or in three, four, five things. To become an authority on them in fact.

Now it helps if you choose subjects that a lot of other people are fascinated by. But it isn’t strictly necessary. For example, if you choose to become an expert on Palmistry or reading the Tarot then I can guarantee you a ready audience from personal experience for the simple reason that most people are fascinated by the occult, even when they pooh-pooh it. But if you decide to become, instead, an expert on Egyptian hieroglyphics the fact that you know a lot about something practically nobody knows anything about will give you a certain cachet – which is a source of pride to you, even if you happen never to speak about it. For the simple reason that Knowledge equals Power.

Another, very good, choice is to become an expert in solving problems that everybody struggles with. For example: money management, child care, dealing with difficult people, employment law, maintaining a house, etc. Knowing a lot about those things will usually mean that you end up becoming an advisor of some kind – that, too, is a great way to exploring your personal power.

One word of warning, however. Whatever project you choose, it helps to be guided by your Personal Genius.

 

 

 

Connecting to the genius in you

Connect

In my last article I wrote about Enneagram weaknesses: how we develop a false personality by getting fixated on the way we appear to other people.

Today I want to write about Enneagram strengths. Specifically, how each of the Nine types, when the person is at a highly developed stage and is free of the ego, can be an expression of your Personal Genius.

In previous articles on Personal Genius I have described how your Genius is an expression of the divine in you. Your Genius drives you on to become the best you can be and fulfil your personal mission. It cares nothing for the approval of others; it is only concerned with making the world a better place.

My experience is that most of us are naturally drawn towards becoming one of the NIne types. Some of us make the mistake of getting hung up on approval from others, so we end  up with weaknesses rather than strengths. Some of us mistakenly identify with a lower type (usually out of  cowardice) and lose our divine mission altogether. But some of us go for one of the types, in a healthy way, because that type resonates most with our personal mission, how we see our selves impacting on the world.

Here is how each of the Enneagram types, in their original, untainted, glory seeks to express Personal Genius:

The One is a Reformer. Wants to help people  become better, purer and more honest. Ones are often Teachers, Writers, Preachers. Many great religious leaders are Ones. Example: Leo Tolstoy.

The Two is a Nurturer. Wants to help people be more loving and forgiving. The  developed  Two  tries to set an example through self-sacrificing compassion for others. Example: Mother Teresa of Calcutta.

The Three is a Manager. Seeks to make things more efficient for the common good. At their  best they make great managers, leaders and (respected) politicians. Example: Barack Obama.

The Four is an Artist. They can be artists with words, images, fabrics, sounds – or  even artists of life. They want to bring out the playful, creative, and original in people. They may be designers, writers and artists; or they may come across as intensely fascinating and original people in their own right. Example: Van Gogh.

The Five is concerned with Knowledge. They are  clear-thinking, objective, often brilliant – experts in at least one field. They make great teachers, scientists and philosophers. On a smaller scale they make good advisors: consultants, therapists and coaches. Example: Albert Einstein.

The Six is a Helper. They want to  make the world a friendlier place. They  sacrifice themselves for the good of the community. They prefer to work behind the scenes, keeping the family together, building up the team at work, or helping in community schemes and  organisations. Example: Princess Diana.

The Seven wants to help people become more intensely alive. They are extroverts who are fun to be with, and who bring out the best in people.  They like to entertain and make great comedians, musicians and stage performers. Or they may just  be the life and soul of the party. Example: Mick Jagger.

The Eight wants to  protect others. This  drives them on to be leaders in some way. They may  fight  for the rights of an oppressed minority, or they may want to rescue people who are in trouble.  They are natural fighters who will champion any cause they have taken to heart. Example: Martin Luther King.

The Nine is a Harmonizer. They  try to see the world through other peoples eyes and understand  how each person sees things differently. Then they  seek to bring people together and promote mutual understanding and forgiveness.

Many Enneagram teachers (including me) believe that becoming a developed Nine who is able to become any of the other 8 types, in an impersonal way, is our ultimate goal. Unlike all the other types, the Nine is not drawn to any particular vocation. Example: William Shakespeare.