Mental Wellness Mindset Wellness

Anti-fragility

The concept of anti-fragility has come across my radar recently. There is a belief circulating around mental wellness conversations that we, in recent times, have lost our ability to effectively navigate struggle and adversity. It has been speculated that previous generations have contended with hardships that may have enabled them to cultivate emotional strength and mental agility. We, in more recent times, have not been exposed to those hardships and as a result, we may have been “softened”.

In the absence of significant hardship, we don’t get to practice how to contend with difficulties. When they do arise, we are left without the tools and inner resources to cope. As nice as it would be to not have to face adversity, it is not a plausible reality. What often happens is that we feel so uncomfortable when hardships surface that we try to avoid them. That avoidance can come in a myriad of outcomes including distractions and denial. Instead of being in a grounded place to face our situation, we’re hiding from it until it goes away.

Dr. Susan David, author of Emotional Agility, says we often see experiences such as exhaustion and burnout as if we are in a tunnel. She suggests that instead of constantly seeking the light, we must learn how to see in the dark.

Being in the dark can present challenges. As with anything we can’t see, our mind can’t predict a supposed outcome. You can’t problem solve if you don’t know what to expect. Coping with uncertainty and ambiguity feels like a threatening situation. We don’t know how to utilize our resources to prepare ourselves for what’s around the corner.

If we are aware of our threat but are uncertain about when or how its resolution will be achieved, we are still left with uncomfortable uncertainty. With some problems, the solution is clear. This at least gives us enough information to address it.

The existence of tragedy and social chaos is imminent. Learning how to see in the dark entails acknowledging and giving a name to what we see as it signposts what we need to address.  

If loneliness plagues us, then that could be signposting that we are need of connection. That gives us an actionable solution to address our needs. Ignoring it by focusing on getting to the light could mean that we overlook what yearns for our attention.

The more we can acknowledge and face our challenges, the more we build the agility to navigate the turbulence. This then helps us to build more stamina in the face of hardship. It also equips us with the courage to tackle difficult situations in the future. We can draw upon our past experience and recognize how we persevered through challenge.

We are bigger and more powerful than our feelings. They have no control over us. Stand up to them. We have the power to liberate ourselves from anything that binds us by facing it with courage, faith and resilience… and the belief in our own strength and agility.

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