Resilience-in-Training: Coming Back with Hope

Liesl jobson

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This riveting tale of survival will touch the heart of every parent (and hopeful parent). Even though this extract from Embracing Anxiety: coming back with hope focuses on the author’s birth experience, this compelling narrative is for everybody that has ever had to contend with more than they can bear. This compelling narrative cuts through readers’ overwhelm at the frantic pace of life, the bizarre political climate, and economic fretfulness. Enjoy a brief extract from this manual for survival that focuses on resilience as a tangible, possible – and extremely desirable – commodity. An Bakkes’ tender and courageous story will empower you to rewrite your own.

When we consider the impact of complexity and uncertainty on our anxiety, then understanding how resilience can decrease our anxiety leads us into how our decisions impact our anxiety and our lives.

In looking through the various scholarly articles that define resilience there seemed to be one theme that I could track across the various journals and papers and that is that: resilience is the way we as humans interact with events that impact and change our lives. Mostly the research refers to how we respond and interact with traumatic events or at least what we would perceive as difficult events. The research also indicates that resilience could manifest differently for different people in different experiences. When I combine the research with my personal experience I would like to present resilience for the purpose of this model as follows:

Resilience …

  • is to come back with the hope to whatever situation it is that you are facing in your life at any given point in time.
  • can be learned, practiced and taught.
  • is a way of being that develops the more you practice it.
  • is, in essence, a choice.

I say this from deep personal experience that I have practiced over the last seven years and it has remained true for me. Not always easy and simple, but true.

One of my first introductions to practicing resilience was when Luca was born. He weighed 1 000 g. His first meal was 1 ml of expressed breast milk through a tube in his nose that leads to his stomach. For the first few days, he received 1 ml per hour until he was strong enough to digest more. A lot of his progress was measured by his weight gain as this, in turn, would give him the strength to grow and build his immune system. Through this process, he would gain 10 g on day 1 and 10 g on day two and maybe 12 g on day three. On day four he would have a big poo nappy and he would lose 20 g and I would sob and then pull myself towards myself. This process continued for at least the first four weeks of his life. I learned to accept what was in front of me and to continue with hope.

A further resilience-strengthening time was straight after my daughter Emma was born. She weighed 2 000 g and was much stronger than her brother and could breathe on her own. And when I held the little body that was attached to a whole bunch of tubes and monitors, and I knew I was heading for aggressive surgery to remove cancer I felt pretty overwhelmed and hopeless.

As I sat there feeling totally miserable and not knowing where I would get the strength from to do it all again (in fact questioning strongly if I had it in me to do this again), Luca (by this time two years old and healthy) came bouncing into neo-natal ICU bringing with him hope and joy that could not be ignored. There was my 1 000 g preemie full of life and eager to see his little sister. In that moment of humility, I learned that resilience without hope often shows up as numb determination.

Another resilience-in-training process in our lives showed itself when my husband faced retrenchment. At that time I was about 12 months into building my “life, business and Agile coaching” practice when we received finalisation on the decision that Tiaan (my husband) would be retrenched. He received a fair financial package and was looking at options which I did not necessarily see as viable or suitable for him (or should I say for the uncertain wife in me who stressed about income). In the process of my husband exploring new options, the financial and career uncertainty for him and the impact it had on us as a couple, and my still being in the building phases of my practice were really really scary.

It took a few rounds of introspection before I realised that the element that caused my anxiety was the fact that I felt out of control. I could not choose for my husband, nor could I make him take a position that I thought was best for him. This introduced a whole different element of resilience … trust. I realised that the opposite of control was not out-of-control, but trust. And now I had to trust another person to make the best decision for himself and his family. There was the relief that the decision was not mine and then there was the hope and trust in my husband’s abilities to be the best decision maker he could be.

This type of resilience is the toughest when it comes to the people who are closest to us, for example, the trust that our children will choose well and that we can only be resilient in supporting them with the gifts that we bring.

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An Bakkes. book bioAn Bakkes is a master coach, facilitator & agile coach. With a BCom (Sports Management), BA Hons (Psychology), Diploma in Coaching (USB), and a MPhil (Management Coaching), she is a pilgrim of life spending her time engaging with her passions.

These include coaching, interactive workshops, facilitation and conversations that shape people, organisations and the world. An does what she calls “Portfolio Living”. Her book is published by KR Publishing and is available on their website. Follow @BakkesAnn on Twitter.