How come some people are more resilient than others?
When things go wrong, they are able to ‘bounce back’. They have an approach to life which helps them deal with the inevitable ups and downs. When ‘life’ happens, they deal with it, learn from it and move on.
Wouldn’t it be great if you could get hold of the ‘recipe’ for resilience and, if you could, what would the ingredients be?
Models, theories and philosophies
As we travel through life, we acquire our underpinning philosophy or ‘theory’ along the way. It shapes our perception of the world in which we find ourselves and becomes our model for living.
This model, or philosophy, is initially determined by our family, culture, personal circumstances and education. It sets our trajectory and influences the direction in which we strike out at the world.
Some people are lucky and acquire a positive, helpful life model.
However, some are less lucky and are incubating a set of unhelpful and self limiting beliefs which affect their ability to bounce back. It impinges on their sense of well being and happiness.
And some of our self limiting beliefs are supported by society’s current negative attitude to mental health which informs us that, if we feel down or depressed, anxious or angry, we need a pill to make us feel better.
This ‘medical model’ is based on flawed science yet is pervasive, as professions and commercial industries have been built up around it.
The Fusion model
The Fusion ‘model’ is a helpful and empowering philosophy of living based on the work of Abraham Maslow, who described how we are born into the world with innate needs, both physical and emotional. If we can get those needs met from our environment, he proposed, we will feel good about our life. The good news is that, as human beings, we have also been born with an amazing brain which has all the innate tools necessary to get those needs met.
Our emotions are our very best, friends. Located in an older part of the human brain, the limbic system, they evolved in response to our need for survival in what could be a very harsh environment. The ability to tune into, interpret and respond to those emotions equates to what is known as ’emotional intelligence’.
I have used this theory with great success as the foundation for my work as a psychotherapist and coach in 30,000 hours of professional practise. It became the underpinning model, or philosophy, of the mental health charity I founded, whose volunteers I trained to replicate my own working practises.
Models, philosophies and theories are great, but they work best when supported by a system which fills the theory-application gap. Along the way, I created my own professional system, which became a professional manual for practitioners. It’s no good having a model if you don’t have a strategy or a plan about how to use it in a way which will help you in your day to day living.
So Fusion is both a model and a system of tips, tools and strategies to help people get their needs met.
The Fusion model improves emotional intelligence by helping people tune into their emotions and interpret how those emotions are trying to guide them towards getting those innate needs met.
Enhanced emotional intelligence skills lead and promote greater resilience and wellbeing.
Carol Sullivan: A very resilient woman
The story of Carol Sullivan hit the headlines in 2014. She is a real example of emotional intelligence and resilience in action.
According to the Telegraph report, Carol had been saving for years to build the home of her dreams. Finally, she invested her life savings of £160,000, drew up some plans and employed a firm of builders who soon began work on the property.
However, it soon became clear there was a real problem. When Carol went to look at the work in progress, she found the mortar between the bricks just crumbled away in her fingers. It had been mixed to the wrong specification. Her dreams were crushed when the home had to be demolished. Carol felt desperate but her sadness soon turned to anger and Carol got strong. She refused to stay down and see herself as a victim.
Carol took back control and took action.
With no money left to employ new builders, she decided to learn how to build herself. As a middle-aged professional woman, she didn’t have any knowledge of plumbing or carpentry either, but she enrolled on adult education courses to learn those skills too. Slowly, brick by brick, a new house began to take shape.
Now she is the proud owner of a detached property worth over £1 million!
Carol’s goal to build a house herself at first seemed unrealistic and unattainable, but she dug deep into her own resources, broke the task down into bite-size chunks and did it one step at a time, staying calm, focused and in control.
Resilience and emotional intelligence
There’s an undisputed link between resilience, emotional intelligence and wellbeing.
You would certainly describe Mrs Sullivan as a resilient woman. She bounced back. She made the situation work for her, noticed her choices and decided what she wanted to achieve.
She had no influence over the problem. The house needed demolishing because it was unsafe. But what Carol did was control her response to the situation. She used the 7 habits of emotionally intelligent people to stay strong in the face of the kind of swerve balls life has a habit of throwing at us from time to time.
Use STOPGO for resilience, emotional intelligence and wellbeing
The 7 habits of emotionally intelligent people are easy to remember with the STOPGO system.
Emotionally intelligent people buy themselves time between reacting and responding.
They know they need to ‘press the pause button’ to allow incoming information, which reaches the emotional brain first, to communicate with the rational brain. This takes just milliseconds longer, but gives a choice between a fast knee-jerk reaction and a slower more intelligent and rational response.
#2 Slow everything down
People with emotional intelligence understand the power of slow and regulated breathing to calm body and mind.
They practise it regularly to improve focus, clear thinking and problem-solving. Emotions cloud the mind, sending us into a primal black or white, fight or flight, thinking style.
Breathing stress away ensures you have a real edge when it comes to making important decisions and solving those life-sized problems.
#3 Take a step back
So many people become completely overwhelmed by their problems and emotions.
But if you’ve ever visited an art gallery and stood too close to a large painting on the wall, you’ll notice you need to take a step back to see the whole picture.
‘Stepping back’ gives you context and helps with perspective. You can observe the picture from many angles.
You can do that with your thoughts and emotions too.
Emotionally intelligent people know how and when to take ‘a psychological step back’ and see problems in a wider context, giving them a choice over their response.
Cognitive neuroscience informs us that our ‘observing self’ is largely located in the prefrontal cortex of the brain.
The PFC is a mediator, a bit like the driver of a vehicle, or a referee at a football match. The major role of the prefrontal cortex is in what it prevents us from doing. The PFC inhibits primal reactions.
Every time you stop and take a psychological step back, you strengthen the PFC. This is why STOPGO is so helpful when practised regularly.
#5 Psycho intelligence
In the age of neuroscience, we know more now than ever before about how our brain works.
The human brain is like a top of the range Lamborghini. It is a powerful machine, but many of us have not learned how to ‘drive it’ properly.
Learning essential mind management skills ensure you are a better driver and means you’ll get the best out of your brain.
We are hardwired to go where we focus.
Have you ever been driving along the road and got distracted by something in the verge or a neighbouring field? You’ll soon notice that, where your eyes go, you and the car begin to follow.
It is the same with the mind. There are filter systems in the brain that ensure that what you focus on is what you get.
Emotionally intelligent people regularly focus on their goals and form a mental picture of how they want their lives to look. They understand brain filters, and harness the power of their imagination to create a positive mind set.
What do you want?
Why do you want that?
How will you know when you’ve got it?
These are three questions that emotionally intelligent people regularly ask themselves.
The outcomes we strive for are underpinned and guided by our beliefs and values. We are ‘driven’ towards the outcomes which sit comfortably alongside them.
Emotionally intelligent people are quite clear about what they want to achieve and why they want to achieve it. All they have to do then is make a choice about how they move towards those outcomes.
STOPGO: Does what it says on the tin
If the ‘recipe’ for resilience is a bit like the recipe for a cake, then the ‘ingredients’ are STOPGO.
And, as all good cooks know, the more you use a recipe, the better the end result….
And that really is the icing on the cake.