How do we get resilience after finding ourselves (again) flat on our butts in the mud of a repeating episode of Groundhog Day …or Twilight Zone or, perhaps, the death of a loved one.
DIY Resilience—Not an OTC Rx
Resilience is the antidote to the poison of failure, grief, loss and other changes not of our making. But it’s not always available as an over-the-counter (OTC) Rx prescription. It takes time to grow it. It is DIY. It is rarely purchased or popped.
I am remembering this week, that all change has some associated grief. (Yes?) Even when choosing something we want, we are giving up something incompatible with that something. There are no short cuts here; no highways…not really (think bumper-to-bumper). Our culture recommends speed (especially around things that are painful…and loss is that). Denial, deferral and bootstrapping (and my fav bulldozing through) are all forms of avoidance.
(Or as we might say in chaplain lingo: a Spiritual Bypass).
The Modern Plague: Is there a Pill for it?
Drug overdoses are now the leading cause of death among Americans under 50 says a 2016 preliminary analysis by the NYT. “We are in the midst of the worst opioid epidemic in American history..." it is an “epidemic of over prescribing… " says Dr Anna Lembke’s in her recent TEDx Stanford talk Drug Dealer, MD.
“The prescription drug epidemic is a symptom of a faltering health care system. The solution is rethinking how health care is delivered.”
"How did healers become dealers?”
Check her talk out for yourself. She mentions a lot: 1) The industrialization of medicine where patients are now customers that doctors must please for ratings 2) the medicalization of poverty – a system that tends to make all social problems biological i.e. at least they can help with a pill.
Her third point about Illness Narratives is most relevant to the idea of resiliency. As a culture, we have adopted the modern idea that pain is dangerous, in itself and should be avoided at all costs. She notes that painkillers can actually slow the healing process. Who want’s that?
The Stories We Tell Ourselves are Medicine
I don’t want pain, either, but like but any kid will demonstrate: life lived is worth some scraped knees. As a chaplain in hospice we are all about comfort care…at the end, in repose, and saying goodbye to life and that which we have loved. The Doctor’s point, (and I believe this...) is about the usefulness of old-school stories for a life well lived. Our culture, in our more resilient past, used to emphasize our own natural efficacy in healing i.e. balance and resiliency. She notes these perennial stories:
- we ARE resilient
- our bodies heal themselves - (cure for the common cold?...nope but your body does it.)
- pain is an inevitable part of life…
If I have a broken leg, hand me the pill bottle.
I’m not a masochist. My point here is that better stories are better medicine. If what you're doing isn’t working, know that you still have investment money and resources to spend...You can pivot.
Better stories are an investment. They are a renewing resource.
What are your stories about?