The Value of Bouncing Back

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Stephenie Craig 2020 AugBy Stephenie Craig

Have you ever found yourself wanting to rescue someone you love from hard things? Maybe you keep taking your child the homework they left at home, paying their speeding tickets or paying their rent into adulthood. Maybe you feel like being a good friend or family member means swooping in and preventing people from struggling. Do you ever find yourself avoiding facing your own struggles and feeling someone should rescue you from difficulty if they really love you?

Struggle, disappointment and suffering are hard to walk through no matter your age and stage of life. It’s common to feel life should be fair when reality uncomfortably reveals life is often not fair. You can do the “right” things and still aren’t guaranteed the outcome you want. When things go sideways in life, it’s easy to begin to view yourself or others as victims who need to be rescued. It can feel mean to not soften struggle when you know you have the power to do so.

However, often, struggle, failure and suffering are where life’s deepest growth and lessons reside.

The resilience you and others develop when working through and bouncing back from struggle is an essential life skill. When you move through hard things seeking the lessons, you become wiser, more confident and more competent at navigating life’s frequent complications. When you let those you love move through hard things with support, but without rescuing them, you are supporting their growth and maturity. Supporting is showing empathy, compassion and validating the person’s hardship without trying to fix the situation or alleviate the discomfort. It’s being present and encouraging the person in the midst of pain without believing it is your job to make the pain stop. Rescuing is taking ownership of the person’s pain and falsely believing it is your job to stop natural pain and consequences that are part of a growth process.

So, how do we help ourselves and those around us build resilience rather than engaging rescuing behavior?

7 Ways to Encourage and Support Bouncing Back

  1. Notice and acknowledge when life gets difficult. Notice when you or others experience stress. Watch for stressed behavior, overwhelm, anxiety and depression. Notice behaviors such as isolating, mood changes, physical tension and irritability. Say to yourself or another, “You seem stressed. What might be causing stress? How can you take care of yourself right now?”
  2. Validate the struggle. Say to yourself or another, “That situation is stressful. I can really see why you would be struggling and feeling overwhelmed.”
  3. Notice victim/rescuer stories you are believing. Notice where you might be seeing yourself or another as helpless, needing rescue, lacking ability to take action, or victimized by some outside villain (a person, a circumstance, or a condition). Notice thoughts of wanting to be rescued or thoughts of feeling it is your job to rescue another from a natural consequence or struggle that is likely to produce personal growth.
  4. Embrace empowerment. Ask yourself what power you or another has to take action in the midst of the difficult situation. Release trying to control people and situations you can’t control. Identify and encourage steps of self-control.
  5. Encourage internalizing lessons. Notice the lessons emerging from the struggle. Encourage yourself and another to see the lessons, to internalize them, and to incorporate them into future decision making.
  6. Engage support through the process. Spend time with people, call, text, listen to give and receive encouragement when things are hard. Avoid advice giving, problem solving for others, or taking responsibility for others’ pain. Be present and kind rather than trying to fix.
  7. Celebrate learning. Notice and talk about when you or another have moved through difficulty, learned new things, and has developed resilience. Be proud of the work.

Be encouraging and kind as you and others press into building resilience knowing it becomes the reservoir of confidence, competence, problem solving and grit for life’s inevitable challenges. Connect with us for coaching and counseling along your journey at Journeybravely.com.