Resources for Recovering Resilience: Coping with Catastrophe

These posts, and all of my writing-teaching-training and clinical work, are devoted to helping folks recover their resilience – to “bounce back” from disappointment, difficulty, even disaster more skillfully, more quickly. I focus on helping individuals strengthen the 6 C’s of coping – calm, compassion, connections, clarity, competence and courage -to do so. I rely on an integration of practices from both eastern spiritual traditions and western relational psychology, informed by modern neuroscience, to do so.

I’m not political. I try to never offend, to always enlighten and encourage. I live and work in the San Francisco Bay Area, the bluest part of the blue-ish state of California. In facing the hype and hysteria leading into our presidential election last Tuesday, I posted on Monday Rick Hanson’s brilliant “Find the Facts” compilation of the deep truth coming from the logical left hemisphere of our collective brain.

In response to Tuesday’s election being hijacked by the fear-hostility-anger-hatred of our collective lower brain, I’m taking refuge in the poetic emotional right hemisphere of our collective brain in the hopes of finding deeper perspectives on the catastrophes we’re facing now.

Please read these three posts, perhaps weep, then recover strength and courage:

“Our Unkown Country” by Paul Krugman, winner of the 2008 Nobel Prize in economic sciences and op-ed columnist for the New York Times for almost 20 years.

We still don’t know who will win the electoral college, although as I write this it looks – incredibly, horribly – as if the odds now favor Donald J. Trump. What we do know is that people like me, and probably like most readers of The New York Times, truly didn’t understand the country we live in. We thought that our fellow citizens would not, in the end, vote for a candidate so manifestly unqualified for high office, so temperamentally unsound, so scary yet ludicrous.

We thought that the nation, while far from having transcended racial prejudice and misogyny, had become vastly more open and tolerant over time.

We thought that the great majority of Americans valued democratic norms and the rule of law.

It turns out that we were wrong. There turn out to be a huge number of people – white people, living mainly in rural areas – who don’t share at all our idea of what America is about. For them, it is about blood and soil, about traditional patriarchy and racial hierarchy. And there were many other people who might not share those anti-democratic values, but who nonetheless were willing to vote for anyone bearing the Republican label.

I don’t know how we go forward from here. Is America a failed state and society? It looks truly possible. I guess we have to pick ourselves up and try to find a way forward, but this has been a night of terrible revelations, and I don’t think it’s self-indulgent to feel quite a lot of despair.

* * * * *

A Brief for the Defense

Sorrow everywhere. Slaughter everywhere. If babies
are not starving someplace, they are starving
somewhere else. With flies in their nostrils.
But we enjoy our lives because that’s what God wants.
Otherwise the mornings before summer dawn would not
be made so fine. The Bengal tiger would not
be fashioned so miraculously well. The poor women
at the fountain are laughing together between
the suffering they have known and the awfulness
in their future, smiling and laughing while somebody
in the village is very sick. There is laughter
every day in the terrible streets of Calcutta,
and the women laugh in the cages of Bombay.
If we deny our happiness, resist our satisfaction,
we lessen the importance of their deprivation.
We must risk delight. We can do without pleasure,
but not delight. Not enjoyment. We must have
the stubbornness to accept our gladness in the ruthless
furnace of this world. To make injustice the only
measure of our attention is to praise the Devil.
If the locomotive of the Lord runs us down,
we should give thanks that the end had magnitude.
We must admit there will be music despite everything.
We stand at the prow again of a small ship
anchored late at night in the tiny port
looking over to the sleeping island: the waterfront
is three shuttered cafés and one naked light burning.
To hear the faint sound of oars in the silence as a rowboat
comes slowly out and then goes back is truly worth
all the years of sorrow that are to come.
– Jack Gilbert, Refusing Heaven

* * * * *

The Peace of Wild Things

When despair for the world grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting with their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.
– Wendell Berry