Resilience is the art of not only bouncing back from adversity, but actually thriving in it. In order to do this, in general, we often need to find the meaning behind our actions and, more specifically, the meaning behind our set backs. By finding meaning in our set backs, we develop a new way of looking at the adverse situation and this brings us a sense of confidence, renewal, and yes, resilience. This process, called cognitive re-training or restructuring, is the cornerstone of building a resilient life style. For example, when a loved one dies, we flock to find out the why and are relieved to find out that the death was caused by something that was justified or even preventable. This makes us feel better about our own life. We say or perhaps think, "I would not have done that," or "Cancer does not run in my family."
Children with disabilities are another example of a poor answer for why. I remember being at the beach with a family with a son with Cerebral Palsy. They told me that they had taken him out of all therapy and were just enjoying life. He seemed happy to be there, and the parents seemed content enough. I did not ask them why they thought their child had CP, but I suspect the answer would not have been substantial. When children have disabilities, the why becomes very difficult to find.
If anyone has ever taken my classes or listen to me speak, you know that I talk about my youngest daughter who has ASD. She has been my why for a couple of years now because she is the only person that I know who truly knows how to live in the moment. She has shown me how to live my life and, more importantly, has helped me to help others to better their lives. Her why is very straightforward, and I am fortunate to have found one with her. Sometimes, as we will see next, the why is virtually impossible to find.
Human arrogance demands that we know the why behind everything...
My father died at the age of 62 when I was 19 of a massive heart attack. The why was pretty simple. He did not take the best care of himself. He ate the wrong foods, did no exercise, and had a history of heart attacks in his family. In my opinion, he died prematurely of a preventable disease. This happens all the time. We find the why and it helps us to get over the event. Even in a life altering event like that, finding the why brings a certain level of peace and tranquility to others who survive the event, and helps them to perhaps correct behavior in their lives to prevent the same thing from happening. Certain situations, however, require something more powerful than finding the why. Certain events are so unimaginable that finding the why approaches the absurd.
The events of 9/11 come to mind, as well as the events of Sandy Hook Elementary School in 2012. When we go through these events in my cognitive re-training class, we try and find the why but it becomes very difficult, even ridiculous. Perhaps human arrogance pre-disposes that everything needs to have a why? Perhaps we do no understand as much as we think we do?
Not finding a why leads to Faith
I did the cognitive re-training exercise with one of my Department of Corrections classes back in 2012. We ended up doing the Sandy Hook Elementary disaster as part of a cognitive re-training exercise to attempt to find a why. The exercise was very emotional; people were crying in the classroom, including me. How can one find a why in such a tragedy? We did. One of the Officers brought up that God had called the children home. Even though it did not bring the children back, you could feel a sense of peace come over the class. We find this Faith message in many disasters that occur all over the world, from terrorist attacks to natural disasters like hurricanes. Our Faith helps us through adversity when the why is not there.