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  • Dan Connors

How can we become more resilient?

Updated: Jun 8, 2020

Resilient: How to Grow an Unshakable Core of Calm, Strength, and Happiness

by Rick Hanson 2018 *** 3 of five stars

Why is it that some of us, when hit with hardship or pain, crumble to the ground, while others are able to bounce back and press on? Is it something that's innate or can it be learned? This book by Dr. Rick Hanson attempts to use science and psychology to show us how to be more resilient in the face of life's inevitable challenges.

Dr. Hanson describes something called the two dart theory. The first dart that hits us is often random and impersonal, something that could have just as easily hit most people. It causes immediate shock and pain, and then the interesting part happens. The second dart is the most critical, because it's our reaction to the first dart. It's our self talk about why that first dart hit us. If our self-talk is that we are unworthy, inadequate, helpless victims, then the pain from the second dart can spread and incapacitate us for long periods. But if our self-talk is that we are good, strong, and worthy people, then the second dart just bounces off and we chalk off the first dart to experience. In my case, I always try to turn the first dart into a learning experience, so I can improve and avoid later darts just like it.

Resilient, the book, is divided neatly into 12 chapters, each dealing with qualities like mindfulness, grit and calm that are supposed to make you more able to handle adversity. My favorite part is the key concept summary the author adds at the end of each chapter, just to emphasize the takeaways.

Dr. Hanson is definitely in the camp that resilience can be learned, and he proposes a system that he brings up again and again called HEAL. In order to train your brain to be stronger and more positive, you need to :

- Have a good experience

- Enrich the experience and stay with it fully

- Absorb it and take it into yourself fully

- Link it with something from your past that was negative and use it to crowd out the negative thought.

Because of our brain's strong negativity bias, (essential when we were more worried about predators and life or death situations), we take in negative comments and experiences much more readily than positive ones. The HEAL process tries to counteract the negativity by focusing on the many positive things that happen to us every day.

A few other choice concepts I took from this book:

- In worrying about future events, most people overestimate the probability of threats and underestimate the resources that are available to deal with those threats if and when they happen.

- We all have a sweet spot where our talents, interests and passion intersect. If we can focus our energies there we are more likely to achieve our goals.

- If someone has wronged you, you can either give them a full pardon with total forgiveness, or you can select disentanglement without forgiveness and move on with your life.

- Strive to like things that interest you without too much attachment. Don't focus on wants too much. Excess wanting adds stress and makes you less present in your world.

While this book is full of good advice, much of which I've heard before, it's kind of a confusing jumble of concepts, some of which have to do with resilience and some of which don't. I was hoping for more stories and scientific studies instead of feel-good psychology. Still, this book was a best seller and had four pages of glowing reviews, so Dr. Hansen should know what he's talking about. The dart metaphor is the best thing I got out of it. Darts are inevitable in this world- how you react to them is the key.

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