Share the Journey

By the Resilience Centre Team

October is Mental Health Month and the theme is “Share the journey”. This is recognition that it is our connections to others which gets us through the hard times and make the good times even better. “Supportive relationships can motivate us on our journey to better mental health and can improve our ability to cope with life’s challenges” WayAhead Mental Health Assoc NSW

Connecting with others improves resilience. Positive connections with family, friends, at work or school, in the community, with groups which share common interests, or perhaps even with the local shopkeeper who always has a nice word to say, help us to better deal with life’s challenges.

Because “life’ happens!

Sharing our stories with others who face or may have faced similar challenges and experiences, help us to connect, give us hope and build relationships.

We would like to share with you our own observations, tips and strategies for strengthening your social connections and relationships:

• Make the effort. Often we’re all waiting and hoping that someone else will initiate. Be that someone. Start a conversation or invite someone to have coffee.

• When you feel overwhelmed, remember that a small effort is still better than none at all. Sending a short text message or smiling and saying hi takes only a minute and a little bit of energy, but might really make a difference to someone.

• Don’t be fooled by the idea that everyone else is confident and has plenty of friends – scratch the surface and most of us worry about whether we really belong, are truly liked or whether we have enough ‘real’ friends. This is why most people are delighted if you take an interest in befriending them.

• If you’ve ever seen someone take the plunge and speak up about something, or even just speak in public, you’ve probably felt that person is really brave and courageous. If you do it, other people are probably thinking the same thing about you.

• Sometimes we are in situations where we just don’t know what the right thing to say is. It’s better to say we don’t know what to say, than to not say anything at all.

• Come and sit at the table of humanity where we all have one thing in common – imperfection. When we are struggling with something, open up to someone and connect. We all struggle but we’re stronger if we share in it together.

• Small connections count and they build over time. Who knows where they might go? What are your small connections? My dog Zoe greets another neighbourhood dog so I, in turn, greet that dog owner. Day after day, week after week, we share just a minute of that morning space on our walk.

• Stay attuned to signs that others would appreciate social connection and encouragement. Catching the eye of a frustrated shopper and offering a smile, holding the door of a lift open for someone clearly running late and in a flap. These actions have the byproduct of enhancing our sense of affinity and connection with others in our community.

• Keep a gratitude journal to train yourself to notice small kindnesses in the every day.

• Alone-ness is over-rated in tough times…We’re stronger when we are sharing the journey.

We thank our clients for sharing their journey with us.

Psychologists Are Human After All

Sarah Piper

Psychologists are regarded as experts in the human condition but they are still very human themselves. Psychologist Sarah Piper talks to Leigh Hatcher about her resilience journey, from working in indigenous and war torn communities, through parenthood, to psychologist at The Resilience Centre.

What is Meditation? and How to do it?

Meditation is a topic that has recently received a great deal of attention for its benefits, especially those pertaining to mental health. Historically, meditation was considered to be an alternative health care practice originating in the East. However, with the advent of programs incorporating meditation such as Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction by Jon Kabat-Zin and subsequent scientific studies, there is now a large body of research to support its health benefits. Currently, it is common to find meditation courses in hospitals, psychology practices, rehabilitation clinics and other multi-disciplinary facilities.

Despite the rising popularity of meditation a lot of confusion still exists. Common questions include: How do I meditate and does it work? What type of meditation should I practice? How long and how often should I practice for? What should I expect from a regular meditation practice? Meditation is simply a way of calming down the monkey mind observing thoughts, feelings, sensations without judgement. Historically, the monkey mind has kept us safe. Back in hunter gatherer days we needed scattered attention to  survive, scanning the environment for predators. In modern western society we receive information through the internet, social media, television and other forms faster than our nervous system and brain can handle. The result often takes a toll on our mental health with conditions such as stress, anxiety and depression and on physical health with illness such as cancer and heart disease.

If you are new to meditation it can be helpful to try a few different styles to ascertain which method works best for you. There are many different styles of meditation usually classified by the way they focus attention. For example:

  • Passive meditation (sitting in stillness where the focus point can be the breath or a single sound) All perceptions internal (thoughts, feelings, memory) or external (sounds, hearing, smell) are recognized and seen for what they are. The participant is encouraged to experience their perceptions in a non-reactive process from moment to moment. For example in breath meditation you are encouraged to pay attention to the breath. When you notice the mind wandering and thoughts arising you are encouraged to focus your attention back on your breath as a focus point. Eventually the mind is calmed by attention to the breath and the ability to focus attention becomes easier with practice.
  • Active meditation (Using sound, guided meditation, walking meditation) For example, guided meditation involves a process where participants meditate in response to the guidance provided by a trained practitioner either in person or via a sound recording comprising of music or verbal instruction, or a combination of both. This type of meditation is ideal for visual learners  or people who learn best through sight. In contrast, walking meditation is ideal for people who are typically restless and with high energy types or for people with injuries that prevent them from sitting comfortably. It involves slow walking paying attention to all five senses.

Some benefits of meditation include:

Emotional Wellbeing:

  • Lessens worry, anxiety and impulsivity
  • Lessens stress, fear, loneliness and depression
  • Enhances self esteem and self acceptance
  • Improves resilience against pain and adversity
  • Increases optimism, relaxation and awareness
  • Increases mental strength and focus
  • Improve memory retention and recall
  • Better decision making and problem solving
  • Improves overall mood and emotional intelligence

Physical Wellbeing:

  • Improves breathing and heart rate
  • Reduces blood pressure
  • More longevity
  • Lessens asthma and inflammatory disorders
  • Lessens premenstrual and menopausal syndrome
  • Improves immune system and energy levels

So how does meditation work?

Firstly, meditation helps to switch from the stress response in the body (fight or flight), where the sympathetic nervous system (SNS) is activated, to the rest and digest response activating the parasympathetic nervous system (PNS). Our SNS helps us to respond to stress by speeding up our heart rate, constricting blood vessels, decreasing digestive activity, raising blood pressure and sending adrenaline throughout the body. The stress response prepares the body to fight or run which can be helpful if there is an actual emergency however, this often isn’t the case and often the stress response is activated where physical action is unnecessary. Prolonged stress can result in chronic supression of the immune and digestive systems and trigger anxiety and depression. The good news is we can learn to switch to the parasympathetic nervous system (PNS) by activating the vagus nerve, through meditation and slow breathing.  

Secondly, our diaphragm is connected to a nerve group called the vagus nerve also known as the 10th cranial nerve. This nerve group connect to various parts of our system including the belly, the heart, the throat, and the end of the diaphragm. The main function of this nerve group is to active the PNS or we could say bodily functions leading to relaxation. When this nerve group is not active or well toned managing stress is extremely difficult. As we breathe deeply into the belly during meditation the range of motion increases in the diaphragm, which stimulates the vagus nerve sending a message to the brain to activate relaxation and calm. The vagus nerve is also connected to the heart. When we breathe into the belly and the vagus nerve is activated, one of the direct consequences is that the heart rate is slow down.

Thirdly, meditation positively influences heart rate variability (HRV) balancing the SNS and PNS.  This important because steady, rhythmical fluctuations in heart rate and good heart rate variability are the basis of well being. When our autonomic nervous system (ANS) is well balanced, we have a reasonable degree of control over our response to minor frustrations and disappointments, enabling us to calmly assess what is going on when we feel insulted or left out. Effective arousal modulation gives control over our impulses and emotions. As long as we can stay calm we can choose how we want to respond. Individuals with poorly modulated ANS are easily thrown off balance, both mentally and physically. Since the ANS organises arousal in the body and the brain, poor HRV (that is a lack of fluctuation in heart rate in response to breathing)- not only has negative effects on thinking and feeling but also on how the body responds to stress. Lack of coherence between breathing and heart rate makes people vulnerable to a variety of physical illnesses such a heart disease but also mental health problems such as depression and PTSD.  

Typically, most meditation techniques advocate a daily practice of least five minutes in the morning and evening, building up the duration of meditation over time. However, in the early stages of learning meditation, roadblocks can be common, with people reporting:

“My mind is always racing, so I can’t do it”

“I’ve tried to meditate and it didn’t work”

“It’s just too difficult”

“I don’t know what to do, just sit there?”

Regular practice with an experienced meditation teacher and attending group classes can be helpful to overcome these obstacles.

For further details on links to scientific articles on the benefits of meditation:

http://liveanddare.com/benefits-of-meditation/

—YouTube Link Vagus Nerve https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RpCdqoWRoD4&list=PLPSPqfuv_mRhpEhYr1kF0XWrRxrM8wLca

—B. A. van der Kolk, et al., “Yoga as an adjunct treatment for PTSD.” Journal of Clinical Psychiatry 75, no. 6 (June 2014): 559-65

—B. A van der Kolk The Body Keeps Score (Penguin: London, 2014)

—P. Ogden, Trauma and the Body (New York: Norton, 2009).

—I. Kabat Zinn, Full Catastrophe Living. How to Cope with Stress, Pain, and Illness using Mindfulness Meditation (Piatkus Books: London, 2013)

For regular meditation classes and training:

http://stillnessproject.com

Author: Angela Curtis (Provisional Psychologist)

Email: angela@theresiliencecentre.com.au

Thinking there is perfection is your first imperfection (the first of many)

i-can-t-keep-calm-i-m-a-perfectionistHi, my name is Alison and I am a perfectionist. Actually, let me rephrase that. I’m a recovering perfectionist. Take it from me, the road to recovery from perfectionism is a long and difficult one. Why is perfectionism such a problem that warrants recovery and repair? Does this not mean that I’m a high achiever on the healthy pursuit of excellence, destined for greatness?

Well my friends I’m sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but perfectionism does not in any way resemble the healthy pursuit of anything. It is not healthy. Fullstop. It is actually quite harmful. Perfectionism can seem like a positive trait. It can make you seem smarter, more switched on or driven to succeed in life. Yes, often the perfectionist can present this way. But there is another side to perfectionism that is far less enticing, less rewarding and far more damaging.

Let me take you behind the scenes on some of the core beliefs behind this insidious trait. As a perfectionist:
1. You are motivated by the fear of failure or a sense of duty.
2. You feel driven to be number one, but your accomplishments, however great, never really satisfy you.
3. You feel you must earn your self-esteem. You think you must be very ‘special’ or intelligent or successful to be loved and accepted by others.
4. You are TERRIFIED by failure. If you do not achieve an important goal, you feel like a failure as a human being.
5. You think you must always be strong and in control of your emotions. You are reluctant to share vulnerable feelings like sadness, insecurity or anger with others. You believe they would think less of you.

Basically, perfectionism hampers success. It can lead you on a path towards depression, anxiety, addiction and life paralysis (defined as all the opportunities you have missed out on due to fear of putting anything out there that is imperfect).

These beliefs are incredibly negative and self-deprecating in nature and are inherently different to a healthy mental structure for screening and perceiving information. On the opposite end of the spectrum to perfectionism is the healthy pursuit of excellence, and this is where:
1. You are motivated by enthusiasm and you find the creative process exhilarating.
2. Your efforts give you feelings of satisfaction and a sense of accomplishment, even if you aren’t always ‘the greatest’.
3. You enjoy a sense of unconditional self-esteem. You do not feel you have to earn love and friendship by impressing people with your intelligence or your success.
4. You are not afraid to fail because you realise that no one can be successful all the time. Although failure is disappointing, you see it as an opportunity for growth and learning.
5. You’re not afraid of being vulnerable or sharing your feelings with people you care about. This makes you feel closer to them.

Brene Brown, a well known author of the bestseller, The Gifts of Imperfection, states that the journey towards letting go of who you think you’re supposed to be and embracing who you are starts with learning how to live a wholehearted life. Courage, compassion and connection, as the ‘gifts’ of imperfection, help you embrace your beautifully imperfect world and help you start to embrace worthiness. But don’t be fooled by these seemingly lofty ideas. The training in the use of these concepts involves practice. The art of repetition many times every single day. Not when you’ve gotten through your to-do list or when you have a spare few minutes (because let’s face it, you’re a perfectionist with a to-do list longer than you’re life span allows), but as a priority.

Here are some examples of how and what to practice.

1. Strive for a healthy outlook on life. Start and end each day with reading, watching or listening to something that inspires you.
2. Practice warmth and kindness towards yourself when you feel inadequate. Remember, imperfections are not inadequacies; they are reminders we are all in this together.
3. Tell yourself you are good enough just as you are. For example, at the start of your day say to yourself ‘Today, I’m going to believe that showing up is enough”.
4. Focus on forgiveness rather than bitterness. Be the ‘benefit’ finder rather than the ‘fault’ finder.
5. Work on stillness using mindfulness strategies at times when you feel vulnerable or fearful. By practicing mindfulness you will learn to roll with negative feelings so they stop having control over you. Your aim is not to be anxiety free, but to be anxiety aware.
6. Rather than being defensive, work on being open to suggestions. Embrace your flaws and learn to laugh at yourself by making your mistakes humorous and light-hearted.
7. When problems arise, focus on your sphere of influence. What is in your control to change? Move away from chronic worry that circles around in your head for days. Move into problem solving mode as quickly as you can.
8. Realise you can do one thing ‘perfect’ or many things well. Make a choice to let things go in order to increase your growth and learning.

It’s amazing how implementing such basic changes to your thinking and outlook can move you closer towards excellence from perfectionism. And if your perfectionistic brain thinks it’s not going to work so why bother, then I challenge you to challenge this faulty logic that keeps you stuck in ‘black and white’ or rigid thinking. For the richest, most beautiful and pleasing colour in the world my friends is ‘shades of grey’. That’s right. Shades of grey that go between the black and the white. This resembles flexibility and adaptability. By embracing flexibility, you have a chance to enjoy your life for what it is, in all its imperfect glory. In the words of Albert Einstein:

“Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree,
it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid”.

So, I will keep going on my journey and I wish you all the best of luck on yours. Remember, we cannot cross the sea merely by staring at the water. Positive change is no accident. It comes from hard work, perseverance and a little bit of love.

References:

The Gifts of Imperfection by Brene Brown. 2010.

The Feeling Good Handbook by David Burns. 1989.

The Pursuit of Perfect- How to Stop Chasing Perfection and Start Living a Richer, Happier Life by T. Ben-Shahar, 2009.

By: Alison Lenehan, Psychologist.

Being Positive and Resilient. What does it mean?

Positive Psychology and Resilience

Lyn Worsley

Clinical Psychologist and Director of the Resilience Centre

Clinical Psychologist and Director of the Resilience Centre

Clinical Psychologist.

Over the past month I had the pleasure of attending two amazing conferences on the other side of the world. The first one was the Pathways to Resilience conference in Halifax, Canada, and the second one was the International Positive Psychology Association’s fourth World Congress in Orlando Florida, USA.

Both of these conferences focused on measuring what was working, and building on it. The Resilience Centre was well represented as presented the findings of our group programs, Connect-3 and Linked-up which are based on the Resilience Doughnut model. The findings were that clients attending the groups have positive changes in their self-esteem, social skills and personal competence. We were also able to show the positive changes in family functioning as a result of the group programs.

At each of the conferences it was great to be part of a growing movement of looking for strengths and measuring the positive changes. Speakers amplified the study of character strengths and pro social community engagement.

To kick off the congress in the USA, the prominent psychologist, Martin Seligman gave an opening plenary titled Unravelling Learned Helplessness: Fifty years later.” (Learned helplessness is the phenomena observed when someone is exposed to continual uncontrollable situations they become helpless and lose their ability to gain control even after the trauma is removed.)

Seligman discussed the findings from the lab rats data colleagues are currently collecting. He courageously announced new findings based on rat brain studies that suggest that his own theory of learned helplessness is NOT in fact correct.

So here goes ill try and explain it.

It has been found that in a section of the brain, (the Dorsal Raphe Nucleus, DRN) is linked to passivity. When the DRN circuit is inactivated experimentally, rats do not become helpless, even when shocked. When the DRN is activated even without shock the rats become passive. Thus the DRN appears to be both necessary and sufficient for producing the passive behaviours called learned helplessness.

 Now stay with me here, it actually does get interesting!

In the studies they also found there to be another area in the brain (the Ventro medial prefrontal cortex (VMPRC) that can inhibit the DRN in order to block the passive response. Seligman referred to the connection between the DRN and the VMPRC as the HOPE CIRCUIT. This circuit is now the interest and focus of much of the studies in positive psychology.

Basically, if the circuit is blocked, rats will be passive even if they are able to escape. If this circuit is active, the rats persevere even after being shocked. He also noted that the circuit can be strengthened.

Based on this work, Seligman concluded that alleviating catastrophe can’t fix people. Instead it is important to work on building expectations of control and mastery, that is, building the hope circuit. This relates to building prospection, where people are guided by their internal representations of possible future states and are thus drawn into the future, rather looking back at the past. These findings have implications for education and therapy.

So I became very interested at this points because…

 At the Resilience Centre we, as psychologists, practice therapy that builds hope, and focuses on the future possibilities rather than focusing on the problems. We have shown this to be helpful in achieving positive change for out clients, and our measures support this. Our groups are solution focused groups, and during our therapy sessions and in our professional development sessions we often ask ourselves, what is working and how can we build on this to develop control and mastery for our clients. We run solution focused training groups, hot topics where we show clients how to be solution focused in their approach and small groups where we can practice the skills of solution focused thinking. Presently we are working on whole school programs that teach the skills of speaking in a solution-focused way to students and colleagues. These programs are showing increased student engagement, and a more resilient school community.

So I found the findings of these rat studies confirming of why what we are doing at the Resilience Centre actually works.

Finally on a practical front, Selgman noted that there are simple experiments with people that have had dramatic effect. These experiments get people to choose positive words over negative words and say them out loud. He even showed a “wordle” based on the words used by hopeful people on their social media pages. Take a look at it.wordle

This got me thinking about my own face book posts. Are they positive? I might actually go and wordle it myself. What about yours?

 

 

7 Secrets of the Mentally Strong

mental strength image
No one wants to be the toxic one. The draining one who exhausts all of their mental energy analysing the many different ways life has been unlucky or unkind to them. Or all the reasons they have to feel sorry for themselves. Let’s be real though, we have all probably found ourselves there on occasion, ultimately leading us down a path of damaging and self-defeating behaviours. But however strongly entrenched these negative patterns are, or however much we are hurting, we do not have to succumb to the allure of negativity, for overcoming misery and misfortune involves making a choice. An important choice. A choice that can remove the shackles keeping us trapped in a web of repeated failure, chronic guilt and pain. One that can help us foster enormous mental strength and acceptance of the person we are. Or the person we want to be.

Feeling mentally strong is not necessarily an automatic gift bestowed on those who easily see the glass as half full. It is a choice that requires cultivation every day (despite what life decides to throw at us). Cultivating this choice repeatedly time and time again creates a habit. And it takes time, patience and a whole lot of hard work to create a new habit (just think of how hard it is to create a habit around regular exercise, eating well or quitting smoking). The good news? Once the new habit is created, the rest is history and we are well on our way to living the life we want.

So how do we train ourselves to exude a ‘can do’ attitude? Well, let’s be real for a minute. Part of this depends on how determined and committed you are to changing. Try to adopt the following principles and evaluate how they make you feel. Chances are you’ll feel a little better. The important thing is to persist- changing negative thought patterns takes time and causes discomfort initially. But practicing these principles repeatedly is a massive step towards breaking out of the vicious cycle of pessimism and toxicity.

1. Realise that the only one who can make yourself feel good is you. People with good self-worth foster internal validation that functions completely independently from others’ opinions of them (the flipside is where you only value yourself when others do, placing an overemphasis and even desperation on the need to please others and be noticed). As the saying goes, ‘what others think of me is none of my business’. Move away from worrying what others think of you and an unhealthy NEED to be liked. If someone likes you, that’s a bonus. If they don’t, move on because someone else will.

2. Avoid comparing yourself with others (this comes from a place of being unsure of your worth). If you find yourself doing this compulsively, you are probably always coming off second best. And how can you foster a positive self-image when you always tell yourself you aren’t good enough?

3. Stop watching for signs of rejection from others and avoid acting based on a fear of getting hurt. If you are acting with this as a motivator then you are ultimately making some bad and self-destructive choices. Be relaxed and confident in the wonderful person you are with your unique gifts and qualities.
Someone can’t get inside and change your feelings of yourself without you letting them.

4. See that no one has a perfect life and is able to be happy all the time. Therefore, when challenges arise they should be viewed as problems needing solutions. Just focusing on the problem and the pain (or the ‘circle of concern’) drains your energy and you will quickly and easily become overwhelmed (and probably build up the problem to catastrophic proportions in the process). Instead, focus on your ‘circle of influence’, or what you can do to solve the problem. If the problem cannot be solved now (or ever), then choose to focus your energy on working at accepting what cannot be changed, thus freeing up your mental energy to change what you can in your life and not stressing on all those things you can’t. The two mantras of the depressed and anxious are the ‘If Onlys’ relating to all the hurt and regret of bad decisions made in the past and the ‘What If’s’ which are the myriad of negative and catastrophic possibilities for the future. These two mantras will only serve to make you unhappy, negative and ‘stuck’.

5. Recognise that the only one responsible (and to blame) for your choices is you. You are not that vulnerable child anymore and you are not the product of other people’s opinions of you (sure these things could contribute to who you have become up until this point but ultimately the job is yours now and into the future). Take your life into your own hands and try to not blame others for your own choices and mistakes. It takes someone with good self worth to admit they are wrong (when this is justified) and to take steps to acknowledge this and repair the relationship (even when the relationship needing repair is with yourself!). Being free of the pressure to please others allows you to take on what you want to and leave the stuff you don’t (could it be that simple?). In the famous words of Dr Seuss:

You have brains in your head.
You have feet in your shoes.
You can steer yourself in any direction you choose.

6. Stay true to yourself by not fearing your uniqueness from others. For its this individual difference that makes you, you and not the person next to you. When we were children we could live disinhibited and free to play in whatever way we wanted. Then why can’t we accept all the facets of our character as adults? We all function best when we are slightly outside our comfort zones. So get outside of yours and take some calculated risks. It can be quite liberating when you do!

7. Leave others alone to steer their own lives as they see fit, not as you do. It takes a strong person to accept that others think differently to you and that’s ok. You can agree to disagree without sensing that as a personal threat. Others need to grow and learn from their own experiences just as you have. Let them do that and you will empower them in the process. Do not be the one who is a caretaker for someone because YOU have a need to feel valued (coming back to that unhealthy need for external validation). If you find yourself being the caretaker of another adult be warned: you risk not being appreciated. This comes from a view that your behaviour represents an attempt to control rather than to provide genuine support.

Even though we can’t control the adversities that happen to us in life, we can control what lens we choose to see our lives through. Good decision making starts with understanding how powerful our thought patterns are and how closely they dictate our actions. Positive begets positive. Negative begets negative. Approaching life using the above principles helps to create more positive experiences into our lives. This typifies mental strength. And builds our sense of self-worth.

Every moment is a place we’ve never been. Meet today with expectation, enthusiasm and surprise. It’s time to start living the life you’ve imagined!

References

Taming the Black Dog, by Bev Aisbett
All of IT, by Bev Aisbett
7 Habits of Highly Effective People, by Stephen Covey

By: Alison Lenehan, Psychologist

It’s just not cricket: growth as a result of trauma

by Kaitlyn Massey, Psychologist

Traumatic events shake us to our very core and incite us to ask some of life’s most profound questions – How? Why? and What if…? These are questions that never really have answers. Reflecting on my own moments of grief, I know that pain hurts, but often, what hurts more are these unanswered questions. As a psychologist, I have seen that the pain of trauma can be almost unbearable for many people, but I have also seen people discover the ability to grow in ways they could never have imagined; a phenomenon that psychologists refer to as posttraumatic growth.

Posttraumatic Growth 2I find myself writing this blog in the wake of the accidental death of Australian cricketer, Phillip Hughes. Like most traumatic events, his death was sudden, unexpected and completely shocking. It left his cricket team and the entire Australian nation asking those unanswerable questions. But from this tragedy we’ve been able to observe the marks of posttraumatic growth.

Research has suggested that there are five domains of posttraumatic growth: (1) people can be presented with new opportunities which were previously unavailable, (2) they may feel a bond with others who have also experienced traumatic events, (3) they may have a redefined sense of self resiliency, internal strength and perseverance, (4) they may have a greater appreciation of life in general, (5) people may find a deeper spiritual commitment which may be different to their previous beliefs.

Losing the life of Phillip Hughes was unarguably the worst thing that could happen to the Australian cricket team and the wider community, but this tragedy has also produced some of the best personal and professional triumphs that I’ve ever seen.

Professionally, the resolve of the players to keep fighting until the last minutes of play at the Adelaide Test to bring home a victory was inspiring. This was the result of peak performances by Clarke, Warner, Smith and Lyon, who were close colleagues of Phillip and present at his fall. Meanwhile, back at the SCG, Sean Abbott, the bowler of the fatal ball, turned out his career best performance taking six wickets. He has demonstrated resilience and maturity beyond his years.

Further to the professional successes, it was the personal insights of the players and the uniting of a whole community that was truly soul-touching. I watched Michael Clarke speak at Hughes’ funeral, with his raw emotion and candid words, “His spirit has touched it and it will forever be a sacred ground for me. I can feel his presence there…” David Warner’s glance at the heavens to pay his respects when he was sitting on 63 not out during the first test, demonstrated another poignant moment.

Steve Smith celebrating his century in the Adelaide Test

Steve Smith celebrating his century in the Adelaide Test

On a community level, social media was flooded with images cricket bats propped up against doors, windows and shops. The small town of Macksville saw social barriers torn down as celebrities and locals alike lined the streets to pay their respects. These are small, yet significant markers of posttraumatic growth. Of course it is still early days for those closest to Phillip Hughes. Their grief will continue, and growth will be slow. It’s also important to emphasise that posttraumatic growth does not mean that the pain has ceased; rather pain is the context within which growth occurs.

Similarly, we all have our own personal tragedies that we try to comprehend. We ask ourselves many of those unanswerable questions. However, in the depths of this pain, we may glean a sliver of hope; that in some way, we’ve grown.

As they say, hope dies last. Therefore, my question for you today is what is your hope? For the Australian cricket team their hope is to play it with more passion, more emotion and a deeper sense of purpose than ever before.

However, it’s not just cricket, how can you use your past trauma to encourage personal growth?

References

Calhoun, L. G., & Tedeschi, R. G. (2006). Handbook of posttraumatic growth: Research & practice. Lawrence Erlbaum Associates Publishers.

Joseph, S. (2014). Posttraumatic Growth | Psychology Today. Retrieved from http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/what-doesnt-kill-us/201402/posttraumatic-growth

Moore, M. (2014). What is PTG? | Post Traumatic Growth. Retrieved from http://www.posttraumaticgrowth.com/what-is-ptg/

Tedeschi, R. G., & Calhoun, L. G. (2004). ” Posttraumatic Growth: Conceptual Foundations and Empirical Evidence”. Psychological inquiry, 15(1), 1-18.

Image references:
Copyright to Cricket Australia / Getty Images
Mark Tyrell’s Therapy Skills

The Psychology of Wisdom:

The Psychology of Wisdom:

How does being wise relate to resilience?

By: Lyn Worsley
Clinical Psychologist and Director of The Resilience Centre

The connection between wisdom and resilience

Serenity:
God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference.

The study of psychology is the study of patterns in human behaviour and the practice of psychology is about how to change thoughts and behaviour. The statement of the serenity prayer reminds us that psychology is not a fixed science with exact answers for every behaviour.
However over the past 50 years or so the practice of psychology has become broader and has encompassed a number of different dimensions of the human condition. Psychotherapy has moved towards the passing on of insight, helping people to stop and pause with their behaviour and to gain insight in order to change or analyse.
So today there are many psychotherapists who would say they are employed as wise consultants for families businesses and individuals.

The Definition of wisdom:
I can’t define wisdom and I can’t define what it takes to make a person wise, but I know when I hear wise words and I know when I meet a wise person.

There are three dimensions that are referred to in the wisdom literature. Firstly, psychology has studied intelligence and has measured and measured millions of people to establish measures that determine if a person has high, low or average intelligence. These measures track knowledge, problem solving strategies, memory, processing speed and a number of other processes in the brain to get a whole measure of intelligence. But are intelligent people wise?

Secondly there is the ability to have insight. Many people have insight and understanding of others, which is a valuable thing to be compassionate and empathetic, but it can also go towards their ability to manipulate others for their own gain. So are insightful people wise?

The third dimension notes that wise people can empathise with others and show kindness when it is needed. So does wisdom mean being kind and empathetic? However there are many people who are kind in the wrong places, which make many problems worse. Such as, sharing sweet foods with children who develop cavities and obesity in later life. So are kind people wise?

We can see there are a number of dimensions that lead us to think through the term wisdom. Recently in the study of positive psychology wisdom is referred as positive deviance. (Lavine 2011)

Positive Deviance:
Positive deviance is based on the observation that in every community there are certain individuals or groups whose uncommon behaviors and strategies enable them to find better solutions to problems than their peers, while having access to the same resources and facing similar or worse challenges. (Lavine 2011)
Positive deviance focuses attention on the extreme end of the positive spectrum. And it brings in the notion that there is a process in place towards the end, and that the aim is to move along towards a better future gradually.
Wisdom is a bit like this. The wise person seems to know what actions, thoughts and behaviour move towards a better outcome.
So to do this we do need knowledge, as well as insight as well as kindness and empathy otherwise we would not read the situation well to know how to deviate in a positive direction.

Wisdom and resilience:
Wise people are also socially savvy and can activate their resources around them to make the choices that lead to a more positive outcome. This is how wisdom relates to resilience, as resilience has been defined as having social navigation and negotiation skills (Ungar, 2010).
In the practice of psychotherapy there is the study of humans and there is also the study of the interaction between people. When we relate to another we not only take in the perspective of our own thoughts and feelings but also those of the other person in front of us. This means we take in information, we assess, analyze, and understand.
We learn this through our everyday interactions and the more positive these interactions are, the more likely we are to learn the positive deviance skills to help us to make socially savvy and wise choices. The Resilience Doughnut ((Worsley, 2006) shows the development of resilience is through the interaction of positive intentional contexts in a persons life. Within these positive contexts, skills develop, which in turn enable a person to activate the most useful resources during tough times throughout life.

Using positive deviance and resilience tools in therapy.
When practicing wisdom in psychotherapy, understanding another person involves more than knowing theories, having a kind heart and insight. It involves understanding the person’s different contexts and the reactions of others around them to really understand them and to see the positive direction for them.
When we think about things from our own being we are merely applying knowledge and the psychology skills. But when we think about things from the others perspective and really totally get into their space we are then able to understand and relate at a different level. This leads us to a place that increases our potential for wise reflection. Because when we are in the space of another we can see what they need to understand next in order to make the next step towards a more positive future.
A lot of psychology is looking for the right words and saying the right things and directing the right way for clients. But to apply wise counsel involves being in the others space and seeing what are the right actions to take for them, and being able to give them this information when they are ready to take it in.

To paraphrase Carl Jung 

“The right insight at the wrong time is the wrong insight.”

As a therapist I can tell someone that this relationship is terrible for him or her, or their alcohol addiction is ruining their life but until they are ready to hear this insight, it is the wrong insight. A more helpful insight is understanding their place in the relationship, and their experience of the alcohol use. When I experience another’s perspective I then have a better understanding of when to say things and when to not.

Using wisdom and resilience skills at Christmas time:

Christmas involves catching up with relatives and friends who we often find difficult. It also may involve sharing stories or our own difficulties throughout the year. Being wise at Christmas time may involve listening to stories and seeking to understand another without judgment or giving advice. Listening and reflecting for more understanding can help each of us to gain further insight into life, not for our own gain but for interest in another.

Being socially savvy at Christmas time may also be an opportunity to be deviant in a positive direction, helping others, caring for others and reaching out to those who may be worse off than ourselves.
So this Christmas, lets be wise, lets be resilient and lets all practice positive deviance.

References

Lavine, M. (2011). Positive Deviance. In K. Cameron & G. Spreitzer (Eds.), The Oxford Handbook of Positive Organizational Scholarship. Oxford University Press.

Ungar, M. (2010). What is resilience across cultures and contexts? Advances to the theory of positive development among individuals and families under stress. Journal of Family Psychotherapy, 21(1), 1-16. doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/08975351003618494

Worsley, L. (2006). The Resilience Doughnut. The secret of strong kids. Sydney: Wild and Woolley publications.