The Roots of Resilience
This month’s posts focus on relational intelligence from within, offering practices to strengthen the inner secure base of resilience that allows you to fully accept, appreciate, and love yourself. That allows you to engage with the world, take risks, and deal with the bumps and bruises of life more resiliently.
The roots of resilience are to be found in the felt sense of being held in the mind and heart of an empathic, attuned, and self-possessed other.
– Diana Fosha, PhD
We learn to believe in ourselves by being thoroughly seen, accepted and loved by another. That’s the foundation of secure attachment and the inner secure base of self. [see The Neuroscience of Human Relationships: Attachment and the Developing Social Brain by Louis Cozolino, PhD]
Whether we’ve developed that secure sense of self through the meme of Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood or through the cultivation of tools like Carry Love and Appreciation in Your Wallet, converting the acceptance and caring from another into self-acceptance and self-appreciation is an essential element in the development of a healthy, strong, resilient self.
We nourish that resilient self anytime we feel understood and care about by another person in real time, of course. We can also cultivate resources within through our imagination (real to the brain!)
This guided visualization creates a resource in the mind and heart of feeling listened to, heard, cared about. Whatever upset or distress we are experiencing, we can also experience the tenderness of care. That allows us to care about ourselves and believe in ourselves as worthy and capable of dealing with that upset.
1. Allow yourself to sit in a comfortable posture, or lie down 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. Then, when you’re ready, imagine that you are in your own safe place, a place that is comfortable for you, where you can feel safe and protected, at ease, content. This may be a room in your own home, it may be a favorite bench in a park or on a hill overlooking the beach, it may be in a café with a friend. You let yourself settle into the safety and comfort of being in your safe place.
2. Then, let yourself know that you are going to receive a visitor, someone older, wiser, stronger, someone who knows you and honestly cares about you a great deal. This figure may be someone you already know; it can be someone you completely invoke in your imagination. This figure could even be simply a sense of warm loving presence. However this works for you, this figure wants you to be happy, and they want to visit with you for a little while.
3. As you imagine this compassionate friend coming to visit you in your safe place, imagine them in quite some detail, what they look like, how they’re dressed, how they move, especially what it feels like to you to be in their presence, in their energy field.
4. Then you imagine how you meet and greet this figure; do you stand up and shake hands, do you hug, do you bow?
5. Then you imagine you know you will get to have a conversation with this compassionate friend, so imagine how you will do that, sitting across from each other, sitting side by side, going for a walk.
6. Then, begin to share with this compassionate friend some worry, some upset, some distress that’s current for you now. Imagine what it feels like for you to share this concern with your compassionate friend. Does your energy shift or change in any way as you begin to share this concern?
7. Imagine your compassionate friend listening receptively, openly, understandingly. You imagine how you feel being listened to and understood and accepted by this compassionate friend.
8. Then you imagine any words of acceptance or encouragement or support your compassionate friend might have to say. If you could hear whatever you need to hear right now, what would those words be? And as you imagine listening, sense what you feel as you hear these words from your compassionate friend.
9. When the conversation is complete and it’s time for the compassionate friend to depart for now, you imagine how you say good-bye, knowing that you can visit with this compassionate friend again any time you wish to.
10. And after your compassionate friend has departed and you are in your safe place again with yourself, you take a moment to pause, notice and reflect on your experience, any shifts in your experience of yourself or shift of the upset you were working with, knowing you have tapped into your own deep intuitive wisdom.
[adapted from The Mindful Self-Compassion Teacher Guide by Kristin Neff and Christopher Germer, 2016. Used with permission]
You will find this exercise and similar ones (cultivating a wiser self, a good inner parent) to strengthen your inner secure base of resilience in Resilience, forthcoming from New World Library in September 2018.