Resources for Recovering Resilience: Far-Flung Resources

[Now that the book Bouncing Back is at the printer, I’m preparing presentations on the tools and techniques taught in the book, like the exercise in Finding the Gift in the Mistake you’ll find below. I would love to meet you at any of the events listed below, more information is available on this website. May finding the gift in the mistake be useful to you and yours.]

Psychotherapy Networker Symposium
“Neuroscience and the Art of Self Care”
Washington, D.C.
March 21, 2013

Brain research has shown us how certain interventions can help rewire our clients’ brains to reduce stress, resolve trauma, and recover resilience. But how much of this knowledge do we bring to the care of our own brains to reduce our own stress and burnout, to restore our sense of perspective, and to recover our intuitive creativity? In this experiential workshop, you’ll practice 10 simple, empirically validated techniques designed to harness the brain’s neuroplasticity to help you recharge brain and body. You’ll learn exercises to help reconfigure and rewire “stuck” brain-behavior patterns.You’ll learn specific techniques to enhance coping strategies and renew your energy and motivation for socializing and connecting with others. You’ll leave with a self-help toolkit to create renewed neural flexibility in your brain—and to recover a sense of balance, wholeness and open-ended creativity.

“Building Resilience through Positive Emotions” March 23, 2013

Positive Psychology research has demonstrated that strengthening people’s experiences of emotions like joy, gratitude, serenity, compassion, and love can help them build long-term resources for deeper self-acceptance and stronger connections with others, and broaden their sense of possibility and resilience. This experiential workshop will teach you 10 empirically validated techniques to help clients skillfully undo the impact of negative emotions on coping behaviors and cultivate the positive emotions that can lead to greater optimism sense of purpose and fulfillment. You’ll practice exercises designed to encourage clients to find the gift in past mistakes, take in the good of their competence in managing current difficulties, and strengthen the felt sense of “Sure I can!” in facing future challenges. You’ll leave with a new toolkit for resilience and flourishing for your clients—and yourself.

Awakening Joy
“The Bliss of Blamelessness”
Berkeley, CA
March 27, 2013

An exploration of how core values inform and shape our actions, especially when there are risks and costs to our choices, and how wise effort in letting go of the unwholesome and cultivating the wholesome leads to wise discernment, resilience, and a deepening joy.

Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health
“Bouncing Back”
Stockbridge, MA
April 26-28. 2013

Resilience is the innate capacity to respond flexibly to the hiccups and hurricanes of life. This workshop blends discoveries in modern brain science with tools from mindfulness practice and relational psychology to teach you practical, brain-savvy ways to bounce back from dilemmas and disasters. Using guided meditations, breath and movement exercises, dialogues with a partner, inquiry in small groups, and large group discussions, you learn to efficiently harness the innate neuroplasticity of your brain to rewire old patterns of coping. This rewiring is often immediate and permanent.

In this experiential weekend, you learn to

  • Stay calm in a crisis
  • Find clarity in seeing possibilities and creating options
  • Connect to resources and community
  • Become competent at being flexible and adaptive
  • Nurture the courage to persevere.
  • Rewire your brain from the neurons up, recovering a resilience that can last you a lifetime.
Earthrise at IONS (Institute of Noetic Sciences)
“The Neuroscience of Building Resilience through Positive Emotions”
Petaluma, CA
May 24-26, 2013

Cultivating positive emotions – gratitude, serenity, joy, compassion, awe – reverses the impact of negativity on mood, health, and coping behaviors. Positivity immediately broadens our perspectives and builds long-term resources of self-acceptance, connections with others, new skills and new points of view. Empirically validated tools from positive psychology research help people develop optimism, resilience, creativity and fulfillment.


Wiring for Resilience by Finding the Gift in the Mistake

Knowledge rests not upon truth alone, but upon error also.
– Carl G. Jung

Resilience is based on learning new, more adaptive ways of coping. Researchers have found that one of the best tools for recovering resilience now is to learn from mistakes in the past. The wisdom of Mullah Nasruddin’s saying “Good judgment is based on experience; experience is based on bad judgment” can be a comfort when we’re faced with yet another AFGO (another fricking growth opportunity) or fear of one.

Our brain rewires from the experience of making a mistake. When our choices turn out to be problematic for ourselves or others, we can learn from them by asking, “What did I not see? What could I have done differently? What can I do differently now?” As the neuroscience writer Jonah Lehrer says, “We turn a regrettable moment into a teachable moment.” We can learn to find the gift in the mistake in the form of a belief that “I am learning; I am coping.”

Yes, risk-taking is inherently failure-prone. Otherwise, it would be called sure thing-taking.
-Tim McMahon

It helps to debrief after a mistake by talking it over with other people. Different perspectives help us discover the gift in the mistake and reduce our agony or self-condemnation over it. When we’re having to deal with consequences that we would never wish on ourselves or anyone else, we can find some equanimity in knowing we are strengthening our capacities to cope. We may not wish to have to become so bravely, tenaciously adaptive in our lives, but we can rejoice that we are.

Failure is not fatal, but failure to change might be.
-John Wooden

Exercise: Wiring for Resilience by Finding the Gift in the Mistake

  1. Ask a small (safe!) group of friends to come together to “look for the gift in the mistake.”
    1. Each person shares common mistakes first, the sort of mistakes that anyone might make: getting distracted and running a red light; accidentally deleting all the emails confirming travel reservations; forgetting to enroll in a health insurance plan by the deadline and now having to appeal. Find some comfort (not judgment) in the universal imperfections of being human.
    2. Expand your sharing to include mistakes that had bigger external consequences-putting off going to the doctor until “just a cough” landed you in the hospital with pneumonia for a week-or internal consequences-the guilt you feel because that hospitalization caused you to miss your daughter’s graduation from college.
  2. Let the compassionate reflection of others in the group, as well as your own, allow each person to “own” their mistake, discern what lesson could be learned from it, and find the gift in it, according to the following narrative:

    This is what happened;
    This is what I did to survive;
    This has been the cost;
    This is what I have learned;
    This is how I can respond to life now.

  3. Even if the gift is simply a deeper intention to pay closer attention as we careen through our days, or to be kinder to ourselves in our imperfect humanity, we have found the gift.

The Neuroscience of Finding the Gift in the Mistake

One of the major functions of the prefrontal cortex is to integrate the many messages and stories we tell about ourselves and our behaviors-who we are, how we got to be here, what we’re proud of, what we regret-into one coherent narrative. We have to come to terms with the whole shebang in order to rest easy in our window of tolerance. Reframing our mistakes as learning not only helps us learn-preparing us to cope more skillfully and resiliently the next time-but also helps us relax into the self-acceptance that contributes to our equanimity, enabling us to keep calm and carry on.

Success is not final; failure is not fatal. Success is moving from one failure to another without loss of enthusiasm. It is the courage to continue that counts.
-Winston Churchill