Why did the most of the Twin Towers’ survivors go through hard times, then eventually return to family, work, and living a full life? And, why do some still struggle?
For many decades, thorough research has explored the many faces of resilience. Volumes have been written, and goggle search turns up pages. Factors like culture, context, and relationships play huge roles.
I am reminded of the life and work of Viktor Fankl. Frankl, an Austrian Jewish psychiatrist who spent four years in concentration camps during WWII, lost most of his family. He dedicated his life to diving into “meaning” in the midst of extreme suffering, writing Man’s Search for Meaning.Frankl wrote, “Forces beyond your control can take away everything you possess except one thing, your freedom to choose how you will respond to the situation.”
Putting it all together, those who thrive after the unbearable
• Have learned from their experiences. We all can site amazing people, survivors of rape, genocide, and illness, who have used their experiences to find meaning, and, even mentor, teach, and serve others through the benefit of their experiences.
• View difficulties as challenges that can be faced, rather than feared.
What if we were to plant seeds of resilience with everyday conversations and questions about what we learned, how we dealt with challenges, and how we found meaning? What is honesty about the depth and expanse of the human core of experience?
What this means for children is that we ask them, in age appropriate ways, what they learned. We help them get there by first accepting them, their feelings, their victories and struggles as they are. “What was hard?” “What was easy?” “Then how did you feel?” “What felt good?” “What didn’t feel so good?” “What would you do next time?” “You learned a lot…” When we stop them in their tracks with a judgement, either negative or magnanimous, we can rob them of their effort and learning.
Frankl took resilience further – he sought love rather than fear. “Then I grasped the meaning of the greatest secret that human poetry and human thought and belief have to impart: ‘The salvation of Man is through love.’ “
When we connect our minds with our hearts, we learn from our hearts, make choices, face the challenge, and we love.