I’m not sure why I never thought of the concept pre-resilience before. It came to me as I was updating my notes for The Resilience Mindset workshop at the Cape Cod Institute July 3-7, 2023. Perhaps it was reading The Expectation Effect and writing last week’s post: How Your Mindset Can Change Your World

If we choose to cultivate a resilience mindset, if we choose to see ourselves as resilient, even in moments when we’re not facing a specific difficulty or disaster, simply believing ourselves to be capable of being resilient, coping well with whatever challenge or catastrophe comes along, before it comes along, we are much more likely to be resilient in the moment without having to even think about it.

If we see ourselves as a kind person, we’re more likely to behave kindly toward other people automatically. If we believe ourselves to be a failure in certain circumstances, we’re more likely to trigger feelings of failure and shame when someone makes an unkind remark, whether that belief about ourselves is actually true or not.

When we choose to strengthen our capacities of resilience – to cope skillfully with unwanted, disruptive events – and then choose to see ourselves as resilient whether we are already being tested in that moment or not, we’re more likely to draw on those skills when the time comes, without even having to think about it.

We cultivate those capacities and skills of pre-resilience through choice and intentional practice, of course. That’s what books and courses and conversations are for, like the Resilience 2.0 course or the upcoming Cape Cod Institute workshop. 

Here I’m focusing on the importance of choice in seeing ourselves as resilient even as we’re learning how to be. We may remember previous times in our life when we were resilient, even though we may not have named it resilience at the time. We may take in the feedback from other people about our resilience even though we haven’t seen ourselves that way. We may try on the idea, well…if I were resilient in this situation, what would I do? 

It now seems to me that strengthening our pre-resilience, thinking of ourselves as resilient as part of how we think about ourselves, is an important step in being resilient in the moments we need to be. 

Here is an exercise in creating a safe place that cultivates that pre-resilience, the video recording from the Resilience 2.0 course, Create A Source of Safety before the Flak Hits the Fan, and the text of Creating a Safe Place as I’ll teach it at The Resilience Mindset workshop at the Cape Cod Institute in July. May these be helpful and useful to you.

Creating a Safe Place

Guided visualizations are a powerful way to create resources of resilience; whatever we can imagine is real to the brain. When we create the resource of a safe place, we can draw on a sense of safety already imprinted in our brain anytime we face something difficult or dangerous.

1. Allow yourself to sit in a comfortable posture, coming into a sense of presence, being aware of being in your own body, in this moment, focusing your awareness on the gentle rhythm of your breathing, coming into a sense of relaxation and peacefulness.  

2. When you are ready, imagine that you are standing in front of a gate. Imagine in rich detail how tall the gate is, how wide, how thick, what it’s made of, what color it is. Make this gate as real as you can in your mind’s eye.

3. Then imagine yourself opening the gate and walking through. When you are on the other side, visualize what lies ahead: a path, a hallway, a trail, a sidewalk, or a street that will lead you to a place that is very special, just for you. This is your safe place.

4. Begin to walk along the path. As you walk, notice whatever you are seeing, hearing, smelling, or anything you are simply noticing.

5.  After awhile, you come to a place that you know is your safe 

place. It may be a meadow, a cottage, a favorite room in your home, a garden courtyard, in a café with a friend.  Anywhere that is a special place for you. Allow yourself to walk up to your safe place, and enter.

6. Take time to look around: notice all the things that help you feel safe and comfortable here. Relax and enjoy being here; savor the sense of confidence and inner strength your safe place gives you.

7. If you choose to, find a place to sit down. Add anything you want to this space to help you feel safer and more at ease. Remove anything you don’t want. You can change anything you want. Then simply relax, feeling at ease, enjoying your safe place. Perhaps let yourself feel a moment of gratitude that your safe place exists and that you can feel safe here anytime you need to.

7. When it’s time to leave, imagine standing up, saying a word of thanks to your safe place for being there, and then leaving the safe place the same way you came in, walking back along the same path or walkway you took to get there, eventually passing through the gate, turning around, and closing it. Your safe place is on the other side, but you know you can return there anytime you need to.