9 Habits of Resilient People

This is a new series on resilience.

I have been fortunate in meeting hundreds of resilient people in my time, some of them very humble people who were not obvious heroes and who yet overcame some terrible personal tragedies.

The nine habits are the stand-out, most commonly recurring traits I have noticed. In my work – whether in coaching or psychotherapy – I am always on the watch for resilience in my clients and will do whatever I can to turn their attention back to their strengths.

By ‘resilience’ I mean the ability to manage adversity. Adverse events can range from parenting out-of-control children to rescuing 70+ wounded soldiers while under intense Japanese sniper fire, as Desmond Doss (pictured) did on Hacksaw Ridge. It can show in the way you handle an argument at the office or in the way you help your friends. Or in your approach to disability, deprivation, abuse, poverty, unemployment, relationship breakdown, illness and death.

Here are the 9 habits:

  1. Resilient people tell it the way it is
  2. Resilient people have solid boundaries
  3. Resilient people exercise mind control
  4. Resilient people know what to do with their emotions
  5. Resilient people are hard realists
  6. Resilient people practice self-renewal
  7. Resilient people fight tooth and nail
  8. Resilient people act from love
  9. Resilient people are (mostly) spiritual people
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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 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.

 

 

 

Why it’s ok to be a bit weird

Weird

When I was a teenager one of my recurring worries was whether I would ever be normal. In the 1970s being 'normal' seemed to mean the exact opposite of what I was doing at the time: living on my own (and liking it that way), being on the dole, writing poetry, reading philosopy, worrying about the meaning of life, and consuming too many drugs.

Normal people, I was told, were contented with life, unlike me. They were also good at making their minds up early what job they wanted to do and sticking at it until they made lots of money. In fact, being normal, as far as I could tell, meant spending lots of time thinking about money, making it, and then spending lots more time thinking about how to spend it. So all the people I secretly admired were skilled shoppers, and bang-on-the-mark about the right clothes to wear, the best car to buy and the newest restaurants to book.

Fashion

Back in 1976 when I was having this weird phase which still hasn't come to an end yet, that meant wearing baggy high-waisted trousers, platform shoes, and flowery shirts with big collars worn with a safari-jacket. To go with the moustache, huge side-burns and and big sunglasses that were de rigueur for normals. Which fitted neatly with the Ford Capris parked outside the Lee Ho Fook at the less grubby end of Croydon High Street. 

I could, just about, cope with the fact that I was a drop-out who didn't have any money and not the least idea how to spend it and make myself look normal. But (and I am being quite truthful here) what was more disturbing to my sanity was the fact that all the well-adjusted 20-somethings I knew were getting far more sex than I was, and were planning to get wed to one of their sexual partners, buy a two-bedroomed house, and make some more money. But the thought of having endless sex on demand made normality sound quite attractive. It was only later I discovered that many normals don't, in fact, do good sex.

But weddings were a turn off because weirdos like me aren't very good at settling down to live in the same house, with the same person, doing the same job all the time. And the thought of living in New Malden for the rest of my life sounded like a prison sentence.

So being a bit weird gave me a more interesting life than might otherwise have been the case.

Next up, I will be writing about how you can cultivate the strangeness in you – and become still more interesting than you are now.

How to regain control over your mind

Dayen Here is a fascinating article sent to me by the Guru of Creative Thinking Mark McGuinness.

Here is that article. You might wish to read it first before you read the rest of my comments.

That misery called meditation – What seven days of silence did to my head

It’s about a journalist who goes on a 7-day Buddhist silent meditation retreat which does his head in. After just one day he thought he was going insane. Symptoms: intense boredom, aching, agitation, restlessness, escapism. All the signs, in fact, of a Headmind that was about to explode with frustration.

Interestingly, his Headmind adopted a very familiar tactic in such situations: which was to chatter about what other people on the retreat might be doing: making up fantasies about who was sleeping with who on the retreat. Everything you would expect, in fact, from a Headmind which would do anything at all to escape from living in the now.

But after the fourth day Bodymind takes over once more and he ends up in a much better place.

Reminds me a lot of the Teachings of Gurdjieff, on which I have written before in this blog. That, in turn, advocated that we human beings need to do a lot of work on escaping our enslavement to Headmind. But that can be difficult to do because Headmind is crafty in feeding the idea that what it thinks is ‘reality’. And then feeding the further idea that escape from that is impossible…

To remind you, Headmind hates:

Silence

Living in the present moment

Being ignored

Raw emotion

The desert (nothing to worry about or do there! – which is why Christ so frequently visited it).

But, as the article demonstrates, when you force Headmind to give up what it habitually likes to do: watch TV, read newspapers, crawl the internet, worry, fantasize, make up stories about the past, chatter about the future, then eventually it just shuts the fuck up.

And then you end up in a very nice place indeed, a place of ‘mindless salvation’; a place of overwhelming peace, happiness and fascination with the world we live in; just as if you were seeing it (again) for the very first time.

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.