Tuesday, 12 November 2013

How much Emotional Resilience do you have?

I used to think of myself as a rubber ball. Throw me down and up I'd pop. Problem is, after nearly 25 years of cycles of breakdown and rebuilding all my 'bounce back' was spent.

Among other things I have learned that one of my main ways of coping with past traumas had been to throw myself (heart and soul) into challenging work with extremely challenging people - satisfying but emotionally draining. I have learned too that I was not equipped to restore my emotional batteries to remain effective in this role in the long term. I survived 10 years.

At the point I stopped 'functioning' I raised my eyes from the emotional grindstone to find that not only had I run dry, but any chance of building myself up emotionally was impossible due to me becoming isolated socially and emotionally from every significant relationship.

I have observed a number of factors which are important in building emotional resilience:

1) Find your Hope and Meaning. Whatever your beliefs, it seems to be that people who have a firm faith in something tend to be able to find meaning for their own suffering and pain. For some, this may be in an external God who bestows meaning, for others, they find meaning in the human relationships around them and, ultimately in their own relationship with themselves. Wherever people tend to find it, meaning provides a framework in which to work towards wholeness. I personally believe there is a God and therefore there is meaning in all of life.For me there is a need for an ongoing dialogue which seeks to balance the pain of life with the value of life. There have been times when I did not want to continue living - at these times I have learned to adjust my perception of God. For me faith must be dynamic and responsive to all of life.

For some, it is easier to assume no God or superior being and to focus on finding meaning in human relationships or in the universe around.

Whatever our beliefs, it is important that our faith is in something that is robust enough to make sense of our own suffering and offers a way to create meaning for our life and experience, through engaging with the world around us. Finding this meaning is important as an anchor when our emotions and/or perceptions of the world around become unstable. They provide a foundation on which to build key life changes.

2) Have compassion for Yourself. How often are we prepared to give support, help and hope to others, that we wouldn't consider ourselves worthy of? Be kind to yourself: make time to restore yourself emotionally. When you are exhausted, it may feel good to listen to someone else's problems, but where can you find the emotional strength to keep you going and to help them? It isn't selfish to take a long bath, if that helps you relax and begin to remember how to enjoy things. No matter how compassionate other are towards you, if you are incapable of loving yourself, then you can't find a way to let that love and compassion in. Learning to love yourself, especially if your life has told you that you are not worth it, takes time and effort. It is worth because it not only feeds you from within, but enables you to absorb emotional energy from others.

3) Take Care of the bodywork... I have an old car and when it breaks down I call either the RAC or my mechanic. They are necessary in a crisis. I would be an idiot if I tried to run my car on a day to day basis, without providing the basics of petrol, water, oil, check tyre pressures and make sure the brakes are working. I have a responsibility to maintain it as well as I can it also reduces some of the regular bills from the mechanic. So, how do we care for our body? It is clear that there is a link between physical stamina and emotional or psychological well being. Physical well being is not just being a perfect figure or being able to run a marathon, it includes being regularly aware of the signals from our body that it needs rest, food or water, and doing something to meet those needs. When I am physically fit, I know I can cope better with my relationships and tend to be in a position to give as well as receive.

4) Avoid Emotional Blackholes I guess no one would like to called a 'hole' of any description, but we have all come across those people who we can never help no matter how much time or emotion we spend on them. As someone with BPD I have been an emotional 'Black Hole'(BH) - it took some very honest friends to help me to see that no 'one' person could provide the emotional healing that I have needed. It also helped to know that my emotional needs were understandable given what has happened in my life. I have learned from my own experience as a BH that boundaries which protect both people, also help to build healthier friendships and relationships. If you are open and honest about what your limits are, then it is possible to limit the emotional impact of draining people.

Above all try and care for every aspect of your life as you begin to feel better. Remember, no part of us exists in isolation from the other parts.