by Monica A. Ross, LPC
Everyone is born with an inner strength and genius. That strength might be in the form of musical talent. Maybe someone is very gifted at playing the piano for instance. Another strength might lie in an individual's athletic abilities. Think of the athletes that compete in the Olympics and the caliber of talent that goes into that sporting event.
A person’s inner strength might flow from artistic talent related to painting, drawing, and the visual arts. There are those whose talents lie in linguistics and the ability to craft words on paper. Some people have really very good computational skills--skills highly needed in science, technology, and the engineering realms.
There are individuals with inner strengths related to the ability to work their way through a crowd and in social settings. Or conversely an individual’s talents might lie in the ability to go inward and introspect away from the fray of it all. All of these strengths relate to what Harvard Psychologist Howard Gardner calls multiple intelligences.
But there are also a host of personality tests that might reveal other inner strengths an individual may possess, for instance, the Clifton Strengths Finder developed by Donald O. Clifton another American Psychologist, identifies several other items for the list. We have individuals who are good with brainstorming ideas, individuals who are natural born learners or leaders, individuals who have great discipline and focus, and then there are those of us who are great communicators.
The point being that we, every single one of us, have some form of talent either innate or acquired. And when we go through periods of transition, those periods of time that call on our ability to be resilient, these inner strengths are the types of things in which we can find an anchor and refuge. For example, the person who is a natural at coming up with a plan, when going through a tumultuous period, those planning skills may bring a sense of relief from the stress.
The things we consider our inner strengths have the ability to carry us through because 1. They come naturally and with ease 2. We have demonstrated some form of mastery in them 3. They call upon our individual uniqueness, which further builds on our ability to be authentic and 4. They give us a confidence boost and in so doing attract others to our cause.
Those same strengths feed into perhaps what we would conceive of as our inner genius or inner wisdom. To me, inner wisdom is that thing that is wholly personal and beyond other people’s judgment and criticism. It lies beneath sometimes our initial thoughts and is a place of stability to come back to when we feel defeated by insecurities.
It’s a type of personal truth that if resting on any universal concepts would rest surely on basic concepts like our inherent value and worth, both related to the inner voice that each of us possess as individuals and yet harken back to our shared humanity.
There is some suggestion in the literature that relying on one’s own inner strengths and wisdom can guide an individual away from psychopathology because it is a way of putting the focus back on the ability to rise above via our competencies and away from the negative consequences of traumatic events (Southwick, S. M., Bonanno, G. A., Masten, A. S., Panter-Brick, C., & Yehuda, R., 2014).
Donita Diamata a former consumer turned professional and Project Coordinator for Financial Self-Sufficiency at Mental Health America of Oregon, puts the emphasis again on the importance of finding one's own inner strength as part of the process of recovery. Donita notes that the longer a person stays on Social Security Insurance, for example, the harder it is to break out of using it because the individual starts not to recognize their own inner strengths and becomes instead reliant on others' decision making.
Dr. Gregg Steinberg who got his doctorate at The University of Florida, states in his TED Talk that it takes the ability to pivot off of tragedy and to use tragedy as the reason in essence to transcend. Dr. Steinberg notes that 1. The tragedy is a wake-up call to change 2. It challenges us to realize strengths and talents we never had 3. It calls upon us to release our inner genius 4. It forces us to align our lives with a sense of true purpose 5. It encourages us to find the “we” spot instead of “me” spot and to let go of what we can get and focus on what we can give.
In other words, tragedy in life is either our reason for doing things a bit differently or our excuse to maintain the status quo.
Dr. Darlene Mininni (2015) in her lecture on resilience starts by suggesting we ask ourselves "What are our strengths in life and what is possible?" Indeed what is possible? There is definitely momentum and traction in contemplating on those things--"the art of the possible" to borrow from Evita. It's a type of forward movement.
Cyrulink (2011) offers up this definition of resilience taken from a conference in 1998 “[t]he ability to succeed, to live and to develop in a positive way and socially acceptable way, despite the stress or adversity that would normally involve the real possibility of a negative outcome.” From the American Psychological Association, part of being resilient is developing "A positive view of yourself and confidence in your strengths and abilities."
And finally, we are social beings. And when we can form relationships with others that expose both our inner strengths and our vulnerabilities it helps to reinforce new circuits in our brains which then help us to develop both trust and pride in ourselves along with the ability to experience the feeling of safety and acceptance in others (Graham, 2013).
Southwick, S. M., Bonanno, G. A., Masten, A. S., Panter-Brick, C., & Yehuda, R. (2014). Resilience definitions, theory, and challenges: interdisciplinary perspectives. European Journal of Psychotraumatology, 5, 10.3402/ejpt.v5.25338. http://doi.org/10.3402/ejpt.v5.25338
Eliot, S. (2014, April 01). Mental Health Matters - Poverty. Retrieved January 22, 2018, from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7lfqt9OWhKQ
Steingberg, G. (2015, August 26). Best TED TALK on Super- Resilience-How to FALL UP/ Dr. Gregg Steinberg/ TEDxRushU/. Retrieved January 27, 2018, from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WKLy71DO6C
Mininni, D. (2015, June 04). Science of Resilience: How to Thrive in Life - Frank B. Roehr Memorial Lecture. Retrieved January 27, 2018, from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ptuvg8mnUic
Cyrulnik, B. (2011). Resilience: How your inner strength can set you free from the past. New York: Jeremy P. Tarcher/Penguin.
American Psychological Association. Retrieved April 11, 2018, from http://www.apa.org/helpcenter/road-resilience.asp
Graham, L. (2013). Bouncing back: Rewiring your brain for maximum resilience and well-being. Novato, CA: New World Library.