Resilience, the buzz of psychology and the subject of numerous articles, has recently attracted attention as it has been labeled the exemplary mode of dealing with trauma. As more light has been shed on the aftermath of human suffering, there has been a great rush to procure a mode of therapy that returns an individual's personality and disposition unscathed. These attempts at building resilience however, is not only highly impractical and impossible it can even be detrimental. However, instead of considering the dangers of resilience, we have chosen to ignore them and have tragically made an effort to apply it to more common problems such as shame. This is a dangerous step towards the wrong direction as resilience can generate more problems down the road.
No matter how greatly we may desire to defy all odds and demonstrate resilience, it is a universal truth that situations change us. Resilience expects us to forget about the problem, and return to life as if nothing ever happened. Just as it is foolish to believe that it is possible to be an unchanged rock in a river of flowing water, it is just as foolhardy to believe that we will be able to emerge from a grim situation without a few changes. These differences may not be noteworthy or obvious, but they can change our way of thinking, feeling and acting, all of which are vital aspects of our identity.
Differing from resilience, equanimity is the ability to remain calm, composed and with an evenness of temper in all situations. Similar to the concept of patience, which supports change and transformation, equanimity allows us to evolve with our situation and brings a person to the border of renewal. This concept encourages growth and rebuilding rather than returning to a prior state. Equanimity is one of the base emotions of Buddhist practice and is the foundation for wisdom, freedom, compassion and love. The word equanimity is translated into two Pali words, upekka and tatramajjhattata.
Upekkha means looking at the bigger picture and “to see with patience” This occurs when we analyze a situation and objectively asses the situation. For example, we are more likely to judge without emotion or bias after time has passed and we look back on an event. As we are watching a movie, how many of us have felt frustration towards a character who made the wrong choice because they didn’t have the big picture (but we did)? As emotional creatures, we innately act and react rashly under the dictates of our passions. Problems become bigger and solutions, farther away. Upekkha allows us to undergo dire situations with a patience that allows us to overcome our suffering and to understand the faults of our perpetrators.
The second word, tatramajjhattata is a compound word (Tatra-there; Majjha-middle), that means “to stand in the middle of things.” This means remaining centered in whatever situation we may find ourselves in. This calls for a balancing of our emotions, remaining calm in an exasperating or exciting environment. Those that practice Buddhism, believe that it is our inner strength that we nurture, that can achieve this balance. Although it is important to practice continence it is also essential to grasp the importance of community and support in these situations. As the Nigerian proverb states: “It takes a village to raise a child” we must realize that after certain events, we are just like a child, dependent and requiring assistance from those around them. It takes a community to rebuild an individual and aid them in their journey of growth after a period of heartache, shame or hardship.
Just as Morrie Albom states in Tuesday’s with Morrie:
“The fact is, there is no foundation, no secure ground, upon which people may stand today if it isn’t the family. If you don’t have the support and love and caring and concern that you get from a family, you don’t have much at all.”
Give love, receive love and grow from the painful memories of yesterday. No one emerges from a battle unchanged, it is the battles that define who we are.