HOW LONG DOES RESILIENCE TAKE?
In terms of resilience,
what is most problematic for most people are the
early stages of a set-back
stage. That's because most people are completely
unprepared for life's
inevitable and unpredictable set-backs. I know I was.
How about you? And
because of that lack of preparation, that is why a
set-back almost always
occurs as a shock-as a surprise. And if it totally
disrupts life, the shock
is even greater. That's why a person doesn't seem
to be able to get his head
around it no matter how one tries.
"What's happening? I can't believe
this!" "No, no way I've been fired!"
"No way would she leave me!" "I can't
believe that I lost all of my
investment." "The doctor has to be wrong with
that diagnosis- not me."
Precisely because a person is not
prepared for the possibility of a
set-back, when it comes she goes into
shock. The facts about the set-back
shock her-shocks her perceptions,
expectations, beliefs, style-of-life,
response patterns, and so on. It
shocks her out of her pattern of thinking
and perceiving and out of her way
of living. No wonder Elizabeth Kubler
Ross put shock as the first stage of
grief. A loss has occurred, but the
person isn't prepared for
So the person goes into a regressive, childish state of
offers "bargains" with God, with the universe, with others,
"If this will go away, I'll go to church, I will never lie
again. I will
never cheat again." "I will be a good husband." "If I can
get back what I
lost, I'll reform and be a new person. I will treat others
The bargaining stage is a childish promising state of
desperation driven by
fear, distress, and confusion. It is a demanding
state. It is in that
stage that spouses show up at the other's doorsteps or
at work making the
most loving, romantic promises of faithfulness. They
attempt to bargain
with fate to get their life back!
comes anger. When the shock fades and the bargaining fails, then the
gets pissed. He gets as made as hell and starts storming around.
people throw things, others kick things. She curses and uses words you
never heard her say before! The person is now fully registering the
the value and the threat that it poses to one's job, finances,
healthy, future, reputation, etc. And with that sense of
threat, comes the
emotion of anger. Anger is the state where we feel
threaten and so we fight
to get back what we have lost or to push back
whoever (whatever) we blame.
And blame we do! We become highly activated
and maybe aggressive in pushing
back whatever we think is the cause of our
for all of the pushing back, nothing changes, nothing good happens.
when one moves into the depression state. We give up. We
and then we push down (de-press) our hopes, dreams, desires,
optimism, energy, etc. The pain of having loss now comes
home and the cure
is to not want, to not care. So into the depression mode
we go, we let it
all go. In doing this we usually also let ourselves go- we
given up spending
time with friends, exercising, reading, and everything
that makes life
interesting and fascinating. We let our appearance go. We
don't care. "It
can all go to hell. Who cares anyway? I don't!" so, leave
What happens after depression? Maybe cycling back to more anger or
bargaining. In fact, while these stages do tend to be sequential,
cycle around them over and over. This is the heart of the
roller-coaster stage as we try to get our feet back on the ground.
can perpetuate these stages for a long time. How long? It all
Studying people in the US and Europe, Elizabeth Kubler
Ross postulated that
it usually takes two years. But it all depends on how
prepared a person was
in the first place and how skilled a person is at
coping and accepting.
That's why-in some cultures-the process hardly occurs
at all. For example,
the more a culture accepts death, celebrates death, see
it as a graduation
to the great beyond-the less grief there will be. So
also, the more a
family or culture or person is well-adjusted to reality-the
less shock, the
less bargaining. The more ego-strength, the less trying to
bargaining and anger. The more coping skills and resources
less time in the grief or roller-coaster
In fact, the last stage in the state of acceptance.
Acknowledge of what has
happened so you can take whatever actions that you
can to ameliorate the
situation as best as possible. In this, acceptance is
the cure for the
grief stages. The sooner you get to acceptance, the sooner
you begin to
deal with the set-back appropriately and effectively.
Acceptance is an
incredibly powerful state-deceptively so because it does not
make one feel
powerful. Yet in acceptance one releases the demandingness
bargaining, anger, and depression.
set-back stage is the stage of coping-and coping effectively.
before this stage essentially consists of inadequate and poor
skills-activities and mindsets that generally make things worse.
is the transitional state. With acceptance a person is able to
acknowledge the reality and go about doing the best one can to deal
set-back. So, given the general nature of how we humans face
should be abundantly clear that we save ourselves a lot of
waste of emotional energy if we would just begin with
acceptance. What's the
value of shock, bargaining, anger and depression?
All of these emotions speak
about how unprepared a person is for real life-
it speaks about lack of, or
So, to speed up your development of
resilience, to shorten the time between
set-back and recovery, here is the
strategy: skip shock, bargaining, anger,
and depression and go straight for
acceptance. It will do you good. You
will be more reality-oriented, more
attuned to how life on planet Earth
actually works, and you will be able to
get to the business of living
Michael Hall, Ph.D.
Neuro-Semantics Executive Director