Rubber Bands

Kirstie Stott and Dr Matt Walsh

Resilience is in fashion at the moment. With organisations in the public and commercial sectors offering staff training in how to be more resilient. It is a growth industry. Much of that training focuses upon building the capability of individuals to cope with jobs which are permanently in crisis, in organisations that are on their knees trying to battle their way through the combination of negative forces operating in the world at present, profoundly affected by Covid 19 and whatever response is emerging through the very earliest stages of recovery.

A healthy diet, relaxation, moderation in all good things, a connection to nature through being outdoors, yoga, mindfulness, exercise. All profoundly useful to us, to help us to regain and retain our sense of balance in normal times, when we are operating within the paradigm of ‘the known’.

Here is something beautiful. From ZandacheL’Orelia Brown;

‘I dream of never being called resilient again in my life. I’m exhausted by strength. I want Support. I want softness. I want ease. I want to be amongst Kin. Not patted on the back for how well I take a hit or for how many.’

Resonation, that’s what we felt when we saw these words, exhausted by strength, by tenacity, by bounce back ability.

We think that resilience as a quality is flawed. A human, so fragile, so complex, so intelligent and so embodied with feelings and emotions, once broken can never go back to its original form. 

We are arguing that most of the current focus upon resilience as a function of the strength of individuals is unhelpful, and that what we are advocating is a focus upon community and relationship. In fact we are going further, and are arguing that the predominant paradigm, a belief in market economics and the power of the individual consumer that is driving systems at the moment is actually the problem, and is the very reason why we are in a position where we have to be resilient. It’s all about me.

We live out and breathe touchpoints in our lives, our loves, our hurts, our confusions and our vulnerabilities, these things cannot be hidden away in the depths of strength and our reformation which resilience implicitly implies. 

The experiences of our lives stay with us, and where we once were, we stand differently in our being. Behold the scars of our lived experiences! 

We talk of resilience so frequently, but what is it, how does it look, how does it sound, what does it feel like?

Metaphors such as ‘a rubber band’ with its elasticity and its ability to return to normal even in the wake of its experiences of being stretched, and placed under pressure, unhelpful as a monologue of our expectations of self and others. There is no wondering why when we narrate these expectations, we see a growing sea of hurt and damage through careless words with loaded meaning and expectations. 

In physics, Hooke’s Law states that an elastic body stretches in direct proportion to the force applied, and that once that force is removed, the body will return to its resting form.Unless its elastic limit is reached, in which case it will not return to its original form, but assume another, damaged form…a new normal. 

What if as humans, we just can’t go back to normal after being stretched or put under pressures and pulled in different directions. What if we are all left with the effects of our experiences, what if we don’t bounce back to what we were before but stand here a little different and maybe even a little better as a direct result. Is this still resilience or is it change?

We’re tired of needing to be strong, of carrying on unaffected, it lays heavy, and it weighs us down like a balloon filled with stone. We need to be lifted, be light and free, to feel easy and ok to not be the same as we were before.

We are human, therefore we love, we want love and we want kindness. Recognition of experience coupled with heart-warming friendship and kin. Support in abundance and the allowance and enablement of whole self. Reformation but not back. Forward. 

To acknowledge change and impact.

The evidence generated through decades of investigation into stressed individuals and communities, from looked after children, survivors of the holocaust, refugees from violence and oppression tells us clearly that the true resilience is grown in relationship with others. It is about connection. It is a gift that we give to each other, and it is a function of love and hope. If we are to survive and thrive in our new normal, it will be because we have invested in relationships and connectionnot simply because we have been trained in resilience.

In order for us to survive we need to begin to invest in these relationships and connections throughout all we do. 

At the ILN our group of coaches and mentors, see the power of this in the Shadow Board work that we do. We see our work not only to create the opportunity for people to experience board level working, but also for them to be a part of a peer group which, if nurtured, could form a part of their personal resilience community as they build their career…a group of like minded, whole-hearted people who care about each other and who make time for each other. And by thinking about how we build connection and relationships into our work we can support people to not have to be fatigued by constant strength, to bounce back to what we were, but to embrace the new and seek comfort in our peers and create new hope for the future.

How incredibly different and bloody liberating that would be…