Posted on 21 May 2019
We are nearly halfway through the year and what a year it has been! And now we are faced with yet another election. Our political situation in the UK feels very uncertain indeed, no-one could safely say where we will be next year. If we look beyond our local horizons the world seems to becoming more and more unpredictable and even dangerous. Just as we come to terms with the need to act re climate change, we are then warned about the dangers of losing our bio-diversity.
It all feels very uncertain, too fast and potentially very dangerous. It also feels out of our control. No wonder more and more of us are feeling stressed and unhappy and even developing mental health problems.
The challenge of change
As human beings we are wired for familiarity. There is a good reason for this. For most of the existence of our species we lived a much simpler life in small bands of hunter-gatherers. It was a simple life but it could be a dangerous one. Wild animals could attack, the food supply could fail, strangers could start a battle. Danger was all around and if our hunter-gatherer ancestors did not deal with it then they could die. In the worst cases the whole band could be wiped out.
So, what is the obvious way to avoid danger? Perhaps the most important is to avoid the unknown. For our ancestors this meant sticking with the routes you knew when foraging for food, using tried and trusted hunting techniques and being wary of strangers. What you knew was much less likely to be dangerous than what you did not.
We still carry this basic pattern with us in the 21st century. It is why the uncertainties in the wider world can make us feel uncomfortable. But it is also there in our personal lives as well. If you reflect on your own experiences, I am sure you can think of some examples. We are all a bit apprehensive when we start a new job, for example, or moving to a new area can be exciting but it can also mean some sleepless nights before you settle in.
If you are thinking about your life and how you have felt when change comes about then you probably have contradictory feelings. You might feel excited as well as a bit scared. Again, we can trace this back to our hunter-gatherer past. For our ancestors, if you needed to do something new then you needed all your wits about you. Your physical systems would have been running at full efficiency, you brain would be firing quickly to process all the new information. This is exhilarating as well as frightening so the two emotions battle away with each other.
You might be thinking; ‘well all this is very interesting but how does it help me now?’ I will try to explain.
We now live in a time of great change. This is relatively recent in human history and has certainly rocketed over the past century or so. We move home more, we change jobs more, we are more likely to get divorced and have several partners over a lifetime. This amount of change, especially if it is constant, and even more if it is unwanted, can place a huge strain on our ability to process what is going on and this can impact and damage our mental health.
In addition, we sort of ‘know’ a lot more people. Modern mass media, and now social media, mean we see what looks like intimate details of the lives of strangers and we might imagine we know them. This is a strange human experience. Anthropologists tell us that we can only hold details relating to a limited number of people we know in our brains. This number relates to the size of those hunter-gather bands. It is in dozens rather than in thousands. Yet many of us will have thousands of Instagram followers or Facebook friends and it can impact and even harm how we relate to real people in our everyday lives.
Then there is the wider world. We are bombarded with information about the world around us. There is political gossip, information about climate change and damage to our planet, images of war and violence on our TVs every night. Most of this feels out of our control and yet it constantly comes at us like an unstoppable stream.
Why we need to build resilience
It’s no wonder that we can feel overwhelmed, anxious and miserable. To cope with this, we need to build great mental resilience. Resilience is a complex thing but I believe that at its core is the ability to take pleasure and solace from things which can make us stronger and happier.
This is different for us all, but there are some common threads. It has very little to do with material success and possessions, indeed unhappy people often chase these only to find they do not deliver the happiness they thought they would.
It has a lot to do with developing a joy in absorbing activities and pursuits. These can be anything and everything. A physical activity (exercise is very good by the way), or developing a love of films or rediscovering a joy in music, listening or playing. For some people it can be a complete focus on parts of ordinary life, cooking say. Others get real joy and fulfilment through doing their jobs well.
What it is doesn’t matter as much as the feeling it gives you.
Often when working with clients, one of the areas of their lives we look at, is discovering what they really love and enjoy. It is interesting to help clients on this discovery. For many it is something which they have literally never thought about. I find that very sad and I really enjoy helping to change it. If you have never thought about what you really love to do then please start now!
But quite often just asking this question can reveal some deeper problems which are blocking the development of resilience. Some people do not feel they have the right to time to themselves. Others are so terrified of failure that they constantly push themselves at work or at university, others tolerate toxic relationships because they do not think they are worth anything more. Most common though, is a sense or a feeling of being totally out of control of the world around. This often manifests itself as having no time, being unable to plan, always being reactive rather than taking control.
In all these cases I can help by helping you change the way you hold these beliefs. I often begin by saying, these are your beliefs you created them and you can change them to something which is more useful to you. We can use cognitive hypnotherapy, and other techniques such as Eye Movement Integration (EMI) to clear any hidden trauma and Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT) to change negative feelings about yourself.
These techniques are highly effective and work surprisingly quickly. They can make it much easier for you to live in this world of rapid change. They can even make you welcome change and enjoy the exhilaration of the new.
We are very malleable beings and our marvellous minds and physical systems can deal with most of what the world throws at us.
We deserve to be happy and we should never feel shy of putting the work in to create the mental states where we can enjoy life. It takes a bit of time and effort, and it may take the services of a professional such as myself. But it is not a chore, the process of discovery itself can be creative, enjoyable and fun.
Give me a ring or send me an email and we can start to build your resilience.
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