To Fear or Not to Fear – Part 2

“As your faith is strengthened, you will find that there is no longer the need to have a sense of control, that things will flow as they will, and that you will flow with them, to your great delight and benefit.”

Emmanuel Teney (1928- ), psychiatrist, Jewish Holocaust survivor.

Some neurologists say “fear” is actually a conscious state and it is not the same as the defensive survival circuits. In other words, we use the term “fear” interchangeably for the most fundamental survival reflex and also for a self-conscious state. It is the self-conscious state they argue that constitutes a “feeling” and that the survival reflex is so automatic that it doesn’t rise to the level of a feeling.

“Defensive survival circuits are evolutionarily wired to detect and respond to innate threats and to respond to novel threats that have been learned about in the past. As viewed here, defensive survival circuits indirectly contribute to the feeling of fear, but their activity does not constitute fear.”

Fear, they assert, is one of the “self-centered higher-order states” [that] “are essential for emotional experiences…”

When we feel safe, we do not experience fear. When spiritual teachers tells us to “stop fearing,” they don’t mean destroy the reflex survival circuit triggered by an immediate danger. They mean to affect a conscious choice (self-centered higher-order state) that we attribute to a given situation. This is what the expression, “We have nothing to fear but fear itself,” would have us understand.

O. Fred Donaldson

Years ago, I met O. Fred Donaldson, the founder of “Original Play” on two occasions. Once at a conference and once in a workshop. I remember him saying that after he had learned to play with lions, bears, and wolves, that biofeedback equipment showed he had no subcortical fear response. He added an exception t0 that. He said upon facing a great white shark, he registered fear because he “saw only teeth and not God”. The likes of Fred, and realized spiritual masters, those few who have moved beyond identification with physical existence, do not fear for their survival in the same way as others.

For the rest of us, I suggest that fear is best applied on an “as needed only” basis.

Fred Donaldson made it his life’s work to learn to play and to do this from being with wild animals. He essentially annihilated the undercurrent of fear that lives in so many people and lurks behind a lot of dysfunctional and destructive habits. The thought habit of fear is why it is so hard for many people to meditate, to even sit still or stand in line—not doing anything in particular—without feeling uncomfortable. The mind races because it is seeking to control.

Stillness can come from radical acceptance—not arguing with what is. You certainly have the right and option to argue with reality. You need only be aware that regardless of your argument, you will lose. Fearlessness is letting go. It is accepting what is—not with a “couldn’t care less” attitude—not a “whatever” attitude–rather a mature understanding that this is true, this what’s happening now and I don’t control it.

I have devoted years to practicing this attitude (and I say practice deliberately for I have not yet perfected it) and call it “radical acceptance”.

It’s about embracing and and gracefully surrendering to life experiences that are not optional—experiences that, in a world of polarity, will range between those that you really want and those that you really don’t want. Nevertheless, it can become “thank you in all things” because experience is the gift of life. You develop a sense of play, a loving embrace of all that is. This becomes a powerful antidote to fear.

“This is expressed beautifully in one of the famous images of the Buddha depicting the night of his enlightenment. The Buddha is seated under the Bodhi tree, looking relaxed and contemplative, and apparently surrounded by a protective shield. Surrounding him are the maras, all of the afflictions that assail the mind. Some have spears aimed at the Buddha and some are disguised in erotic imagery, aiming to disrupt the Buddha’s concentration, trying to generate the fear that comes from being attacked. But the Buddha sits unmoved, with one hand on the ground, as if to say, “I have a right to be here.” The shield that surrounds him, that protects him from these afflictions, is his benevolence. His own loving-kindness shining out from him is the dissolver of all afflictions.” [Source]

Mastery over fear is possible and certainly a worthwhile goal. And, if one can’t master it completely, then at the very least it would be a wonderful goal to prevent anxiety, nervousness, and all forms of fear from dominating your life.

“Sri Yukteswar’s eyes twinkled ….“My mother once tried to frighten me with an appalling story of a ghost in a dark chamber. I went there immediately, and expressed my disappointment at having missed the ghost. Mother never told me another horror-tale. Moral: Look fear in the face and it will cease to trouble you.”

Paramahansa Yogananda, Autobiography of a Yogi

To Fear or Not to Fear

– That is a Very Good Question

Living beings NEED fear. One of nature’s great gifts, its purpose ensures the continuation of life. Fear, like pain, is not pleasant, but it let’s us know something is wrong. Spontaneous, natural fear is healthy, such as the cat’s instinctive reaction to the cucumber (mistaking it probably for a snake). It may seem funny to us—and many practical jokes are played like this on humans as well—but it’s actually a very important and serious gift that keeps the cat safe.

Your brain stem works well when it protects you from dangers to ensure your survival. The fear response is perhaps the most basic and oldest wisdom of physical existence. Even a single cell amoeba has an “irritability” factor that causes it to withdraw from danger.

However, when you allow yourself to be stirred up into a state of fear by politicians, pundits, the media, social media, or your friends and family, so that you are reacting as if you are in actual, present, in-the-moment danger, you are being hoodwinked. You are terrorizing yourself for no good reason, because in that moment you are not in actual life or death danger. Nevertheless, your sympathetic nervous system kicks in and stress chemicals cascade through you, altering your heart rate, blood pressure, breathing, muscle tone, and thinking ability, as if you were currently being threatened.

Somebody or something has put a cucumber in your path.

And you let that happen over and over again, to your own detriment.

We humans have, like the cat above, instinctive fear reactions, one being the startle reflex. When something suddenly appears in the field of vision, or unexpectedly touches from behind, or there is a nearby, sudden, loud sound, these sensory (informational) stimuli, if intense, may cause a heightened response in which we jump, shriek, run away. Or if it is a milder surprise, less dramatically, the reaction is to freeze, withdraw (contract) and often touch the center of the chest, and focus attention. If we are mature, we quickly assess the danger, decide if it is real and how to react: to stay put (freeze); to engage the danger (fight); or to get the heck out of there (flee). Or, in the case of the cucumber, or someone playing a practical joke on us, relax or even laugh as we realize there is no danger here. A less evolved animal (like the cat) or an infant will react without immediately assessing the danger. But even the cat will eventually figure it out and might even start eating the cucumber.

Don’t let a cat be smarter than you!

Stop jumping every time somebody tries to manipulate you.

In cases of real—rather than imagined danger—fear is your friend. Your reflexes are designed by nature to respond to immediate, in-the-moment threats (or a perceived threat until it can be evaluated). When the proprioceptive system (literally “perception of self” or body in space) and the vestibular (balance) system are functioning well, and reflexes are well integrated, there is generally a physiological sense of safety—enough comfort in the body to go about daily routines without giving them a second thought. In the present moment there is no need for fear. The unconscious or subconscious awareness effectively says, “I’m OK. I know how to take care of myself.”

When we feel safe, life is generally easier, healthier, and more pleasant.

Sometimes, when we are bored or want an adrenaline rush, we seek fear, perhaps in order to feel more alive. Halloween scary houses, practical jokes, or watching horror movies are examples of our desire to experience fear as a thrill. That’s OK if it is not routine. But putting ourselves into a steady fear state May be likened to addiction. Adrenaline and cortisol might be natural drugs, but they are not meant by nature to be used so much so often.

Ask yourself: Do you experience real fear—leading to positive, natural reaction responses—or unhealthy states that mimic fear (bad fear)? In the case of bad fear, the word “fear” is actually used inaccurately, and covers up or clouds the real, underlying condition. There are many better words to use to distinguish between fear (the unconditioned, innate, mechanism built into our neurophysiology) versus learned, and usually dysfunctional, conditioned states that come from memories or projections about the future.

The Importance of Developing an Emotional Vocabulary

Let’s call “bad fear” what it is: insecurity, worry, anxiety, preoccupation, trepidation, nervousness, dread, distress, dismay, unease, foreboding, angst, apprehension, unrest, perturbation, disquiet, discomposure, concern, malaise, or even, in the extreme, paranoia, etc. And, even though anxiety, as an example of one of these, like the others is usually considered an emotion, it is not. It is a repeating thought that becomes a state of sensation that masquerades as emotion.

The above conditions cause sensations such as shivering, twitching, trembling, shuddering, quavering, quivering, jerking, fluttering, “butterflies in the stomach”, etc. None of these sensations function to protect us. They are not healthy reflex reactions, but rather symptoms of an uncomfortable state and are not natural or healthy responses to actual situations.

These thought-derived past memories or future projections run along as subconscious programs that can feel like emotions and then cause unnecessary stress resulting in biological and physiological reactions. These undercurrents of imagined or remembered dangers become dysfunctional patterns and habits that often hold the body in unnecessarily tight, protective postures. Such apprehensive states do not allow for the kind of ease and stillness from which peace, joy, and ease arise.

Think of the animal kingdom or even human infants. They exhibit innate fear, but not “bad fear.” For example, perhaps your dog hates thunderstorms and reacts with shaking, hiding, whining or other symptoms of distress; but when the thunderstorm is over, the behavior stops. It is very unlikely that your dog then spends any time or energy “thinking” about future thunderstorms or “remembering” past ones. The dog’s fear is bodily/sensory stimulation; but that human’s “bad fear” is from mental activity. Animals and infants have no vocabulary for their experience, only the experience itself in its raw form.

Just as the word “fear” is used inexactly, many of the above sensation words are mislabeled as emotions in mainstream psychology. Regardless, it’s truly important to have a highly developed vocabulary for these experiences, sensations, patterns and habits of thought and behavior. Imagine going to your doctor and saying, “I have a pain.” The doctor says, “Where.” You reply, “In my body.” “What part of your body?” “In my leg.” “Which leg?” “My right leg.” “Which part of your right leg?” “The lower part.” “Which lower part?” … until finally the area of the ankle is identified as the problem area. Then the doctor asks, “What kind of pain?” “Bad,” you answer. And so on and on. Being precise in definition requires a vocabulary that correctly isolates and accurately identifies and details the issue.

Please realize, however, that with an adequate understanding and vocabulary, these states masquerading as fear can serve—IN THE SHORT TERM—to accurately identify a problem and to be used consciously as a valuable protective mechanism.

If you have been threatened by a hurricane or tornado, for example, worry about future hurricanes or tornadoes would make you more likely to take necessary and beneficial precautions. Perhaps you need to buy insurance, to have fire drills, draw up an escape plan, or to check that tools and machinery are working properly.

If you have been diagnosed with a serious illness, worry or concern can make you change your behaviors, have regular health check ups, get your affairs in order. These kinds of thoughts and sensations can focus you.

However, continued worry without taking appropriate action, serves no purpose, other than to wreck havoc on well-being, depleting the intrinsic pleasures of being alive, and impeding personal growth. If we allow a concern to serve as an impetus towards positive action, it too can serve as a positive, so long as it does not linger beyond its functional value. Once we have taken whatever precautions we deem necessary, it is time to let the worry go. Once we have taken appropriate action, we have essentially trained our conscious mind to tell our subconscious mind and our neurophysiological system, “It’s OK. I know how to take care of myself.”

There are no guarantees. From the viewpoint of anxiety, none are strong enough. From the viewpoint of the natural state, none are necessary.

Is it possible to heal?

“To recognize one’s own insanity, is, of course, the rising of sanity…”

Eckhart Tolle

By the time I was old enough to deliberately choose to interact with my maternal grandmother, she already suffered from dementia. And if you had asked me why I adored spending my time with her above all my other “more interesting” conversant relatives, I could not have told you.

When I was older, at some family gathering, I heard someone tell a story about my grandmother. Apparently, during the depression, she was taking apart her own clothing and sewing it into garments for children. She was also secretly giving her food away to the street children; and her secret generosity might not have been discovered except she passed out one day. Upon discovery, the family made her eat her food.

Last year, I was visiting with family of dear friends. The male elder—father of my friend—was in advanced stages of Alzheimer’s disease, seemingly oblivious to the content of the conversation, not remembering how anyone was related to him. His wife, my friend (his daughter), and I were making pleasant conversation, while he just sat there picking at scabs. Then my friend took a phone call from her husband that his mother, the matriarch of his family, had just died.

His mother was my original connection to all these people, the mother of a best friend I’d had 50 years before. We had bonded over the prolonged illness and death of her daughter. I admired and loved this woman—a woman who became a 2nd mother to me.

My friend, still with the phone in her hand, was crying. I was crying. My friend’s mother teared up. And though he had no cognitive awareness of the people involved or what any of the details were, the field of love and empathy that emanated from this man’s heart was palpable not only to me, but when I asked my friend, it was just as clear to her.

It was not until I grew old enough that I understood it was this quality of presence that was so appealing about my grandmother; and that this kind of presence has nothing to do with what a person knows or does. It is like the cherubic state of the newborn. In the case of my friend’s father, his presence was not actually gone, it was just transferred or transmuted into something different.

I witnessed another, stranger experience of divergent consciousness—not a delightful presence—during my college years, which was when I was in my 30s. One of the students had a schizophrenic break. (All were more mature than most college students in this small, alternative program than in a typical college setting). Because I worked part-time as secretary for the director of the school on a work scholarship, I participated in a very uncomfortable phone call to her family and learned that this was not her first schizophrenic episode and they wanted no part of her. They coldly said to put her in the local mental institution. Unfortunately, that institution had a reputation as something of a “snake pit.”

I suggested to my boss, who was also my professor, that a small group that included me, two other students, and the two instructors in the curative studies field, could form a round-the-clock care group. Incredibly, he agreed given certain conditions. A psychiatrist was called in for medication and supervision of the troubled student; and the students in the care group had to accept free psychological counseling sessions twice a week.

It was during these sessions that I learned the great value of bringing up the sewage of the subconscious mind. A lot of treasures lived in that sludge. I also learned that while living in her schizophrenic world the woman was keenly, seemingly supernaturally, aware of every way to push very specific and very different buttons of everyone in her environment. It was as if she could see their weaknesses as clearly as you and I can see physical forms.

Many years later one of my former elementary school students who was a wonderful artist and the most dyslexic person I had ever met, suffered a schizophrenic break as a young adult. His untimely death was tragic and some community members chose to commemorate him with an exhibit of his art and pottery. In exhibit were some of the childhood paintings he had done in my classroom. Also on display were black and white sketches he had recently done, while in prison, of notable figures in the news. They looked like ink portraits that could easily have illustrated Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray.

The external aspects made the portraits recognizable as who they were, but he also managed to convey the inner soul, distorted energy field and certain unholy images. I knew then that he too was seeing somehow into the deepest crevices of their subterranean consciousness.

Not long after my profound near-death-experience (NDE), I consulted a psychiatrist because I was convinced I was crazy. At the time I could hear what people were thinking (telepathy) and feel what people were feeling (empathy) and even share their experiences. He told me that crazy people generally don’t voluntarily go to psychiatrists, that “all my buffers were blown” and it would take about seven years to develop those buffers again; and, that he hoped I would eventually go into a helping profession.

In Chapter 10 of Carl Jung’s memoir, Memories, Dreams and Reflections, he describes what it was like for him to return from his NDE:

The view of city and mountains from my sickbed seemed to me like a painted curtain with black holes in it, or a tattered sheet of newspaper full of photographs that meant nothing. Disappointed, I thought, “Now I must return to the ‘box system’ again.” For it seemed to me as if behind the horizon of the cosmos a three-dimensional world had been artificially built up, in which each person sat by himself in a little box. And now I should have to convince myself all over again that this was important! Life and the whole world struck me as a prison, and it bothered me beyond measure that I should again be finding all that quite in order. I had been so glad to shed it all, and now it had come about that I along with everyone else would again be hung up in a box by a thread. While I floated in space, I had been weightless, and there had been nothing tugging at me. And now all that was to be a thing of the past!

If we can look at and recognize the insanity of the current world around us, perhaps as Eckhart Tolle suggests, we might begin to become sane, to begin to heal, to become whole, to realize our potential.

Ann Frank famously said,

It’s difficult in times like these: ideals, dreams and cherished hopes rise within us, only to be crushed by grim reality. It’s a wonder I haven’t abandoned all my ideals, they seem so absurd and impractical. Yet I cling to them because I still believe, in spite of everything, that people are truly good at heart.

I don’t know that all people are truly good at heart, or why we are born into a “box system,” but I believe that the source that built that human heart and this “box system” is good and that there is deep and valuable meaning to the human experience. I can’t say that I know this or that I know anything in the mental sense of knowledge. I speak of a knowing, a conviction, that is not of the brain but lives in some divergent reality. It is a reality, a consciousness, that generally is glimpsed only when what is commonly known as “reality”— the reality of the five senses—has somehow had its edges removed and the veil it creates is rendered torn and tattered.

I have come to comprehend that somehow our instruments—our bodies, personalities, perhaps even our souls—can be, and usually are, to a greater or lesser degree, damaged. That essence of who we are—LOVE—that grand cosmic symphony of beauty and truth—coming through these damaged, dinged, twisted, broken instruments, comes out distorted and we lose our potential for what life could truly be. If we could but go in and repair the damage what joy and happiness we could experience, what peace there could be on this pretty little planet, in this limited, but adorable field of consciousness in which we could, if we would, simply laugh, sing and play.

Video above by cottonbro from Pexels
Infant Video by Renjini Renjini from Pexels
Images from Pexels

Meditation – 6 Questions

Who? What? Where? Why? When? & How?

WHO? is easy…. it’s YOU! There. Step 1 complete.

WHAT? is meditation, of course; but this is not so easy because even the word “meditation” means different things to different people. Definitions include:

Merriam Webster:

  • to engage in contemplation or reflection
  • to engage in mental exercise (such as concentration on one’s breathing or repetition of a mantra) for the purpose of reaching a heightened level of spiritual awareness.

Wikipedia:

“Scholars have found meditation difficult to define, as practices vary both between traditions and within them.”

The list and variations could go on and on, but this only complicates the issue. We shall return to this in the HOW section.

WHERE? is also easy. Wherever you are. You could be sitting, standing, lying down. All you need is your presence. How to get to “presence” is where the “what” and “how” both come in. What meditation practice will you choose? How does one best meditate? Again, hold on… we’ll get to that.

Find someplace soothing, even if it’s only in your imagination.

WHEN? has a cute answer, which is, of course, NOW. The real answer is whenever you can. But practically speaking, it’s a good idea to build it into your schedule at a regular time—a time of day or even time of week —) if once a week is all you can manage) when you aren’t crazy busy, or when you aren’t most stressed. We each have natural rhythms. Find yours.

WHY? The health benefits of meditation and meditative techniques are evidence based and well documented. They include:

The list could go on and on to include productivity, creativity, prevention of disease, etc. etc. So, assuming you are already convinced that meditation is worthwhile, let’s get on with the HOW.

HOW? Here are some suggestions until you figure out what’s easiest and best for you. Lots of people, as discussed in last month’s blog, have a hard time turning off their thoughts. So what’s a person to do?

Make it up if you have to. That’s what I do. Don’t think there’s a “right way” to do it. Be easy on yourself. Practice self-kindness. Take it slowly—a few minutes a day; and if you can’t manage every day, that’s OK too. Just start. Take tiny baby steps. You can time yourself of not. This is your meditation. I usually do my “meditating” sitting down. I tell myself that the everyday, temporal me has done all the thinking necessary for one day.

Then I wait for the “bigger” me, the one that lives in my sub-conscious or super-conscious or perhaps permeates the cosmos, that connected-to-all-that-is-Self to take over. In other words, I “let go and let God.”

I get really, really quiet and show up to whatever state that follows.

I push a  mental button to switch off my everyday, taking-care-of-business thoughts

Sometimes I start by consciously breathing deeply, with long inhale, a short holding of the in-breath, long exhale, and then short holding of the out-breath. Sometimes I hum or tone. There is some evidence that toning is even more effective than meditating.

You can try a scanning technique. Close your eyes and look into your body. Find the tense places and imagine that you are soothing, massaging them. Imagine your body as filled with warm sand, or bright light, or beautiful waves of water. You may prefer to breathe naturally. An infant knows how to breathe without effort. Follow your breathing. Breathe in your favorite incense or diffuse essential oil. Listen to meditative music. Doodle if you are restless and must keep busy. The possibilities for relaxing are endless. You need to relax first so you can enter the meditative state.

Choose your favorite incense. Or gaze at a candle.

Use biofeedback equipment if you must.

Read books, watch videos, or listen to podcasts about different kinds of meditation and try out one that attracts you. This is not unlike trying on new shoes. If it’s comfortable continue. If not, try something else.

Use basic “mindfulness”. Take one step back from your thoughts and just watch them as if they are clouds floating by. If you get “caught” into a thought, as soon as you realize this, go back to a distance from it. IF you catch yourself completely drifting away, call yourself back to the present moment.

Walking meditation. With each step, breathe. You might want to think, “Here I am now.” Every now and then stand still for a moment. Open your senses to the colors, sounds, movement of the air, the clouds, aromas. Take another step. “Here I am now.”

Some people need a mantra. You don’t need someone to create one for you. Create your own. Make is simple. For years I have repeated to myself, “Thank you.” – or “Thank you God.” To keep myself awake, I sometimes count my mantra, “Thank you 1, thank you 2, thank you 3…..”

You could sit with palms open. Imagine that one hand is giving up to the cosmos all that you have experienced, much as a fragrant flower gives its aroma to its surroundings, without effort. With the other hand, receive all that the cosmos has to offer, just as the flower receives the air, the wind, the rain and the sun.

Be present – a present – to yourself. Enjoy the silence of being just you. If you find something new that works really well, please share that with my readers.

BLESSINGS.

Gratitude to pexels.com for royalty free photos.

S.A.D.

It’s a thing. And Daylight Saving Time (DST) effects can mimic it or make it worse.

I experienced “seasonal affective disorder” (SAD) once. I was residing in the basement of a Minneapolis home by Lake Harriet. The dwelling had only one small ground level window and the weather was mostly gray for at least a month. I felt just as gray.

This was an unusual experience for me because as a physician of mine once said, “Sharon, you are one of the happiest people I’ve ever known – in a healthy way.”

But the lack of sunshine took a toll and I was in a depressed state that I couldn’t shake. Fortunately, the dwelling was temporary and I returned, racing ahead of a pervasive early snowstorm, to Texas, my home. Truth be told, I’m not particularly fond of heat and have never really adjusted to the Texas climate. In the summer, I avoid the ever-present, intense sun as if I were a vampire.  So no one was more surprised than me when–as soon as I crossed the border from Oklahoma into Texas–I immediately jumped out of my car and actually kissed the ground because the sun was shining.

Fast forward to this morning, November 3, 2019, as I woke to the first day after we turn the clocks back. I was still lying in bed realizing that my internal clock and the external clocks in my home we’re in disagreement, and I began wondering what it would be like in the evening when darkness would settle in so early. That’s when I remembered the bout of seasonal affective disorder and the weariness of so much dark.

Curious, I searched the internet for Daylight Saving Time and seasonal affective disorder; and lo and behold, there was all lot of information on the subject. Not only had other people have the same thought, there was a good amount of genuine research.

To my surprise, DST is practiced by about 70 industrialized countries worldwide with the exception of India, China, and Japan. In South America it is observed by Paraguay and most of Chile. And this is despite evidence that observing Daylight Savings “appears to compromise the process of sleep by decreasing both sleep duration and sleep efficiency.”

Daylight Savings “appears to compromise the process of sleep by decreasing both sleep duration and sleep efficiency.”

[Neuroscience Letters, Volume 406, Issue 3, 9 October 2006, Pages 174-177]

Research indicates that DST (either springing forward or falling back) affects circadian rhythms which in turn affect cortisol levels, the possibility of acute myocardial infarction (especially in men), ischemic stroke for the first two days after the transition [Sleep Med. 2016 Nov – Dec;27-28:20-24. doi: 10.1016/j.sleep.2016.10.009. Epub 2016 Nov 2]. Fortunately, the negative physical health affects diminish quickly after the first days following transition.

Mood, however, may be adversely compromised for much longer. Because SAD is experienced as a result of loss of sunlight, autumn DST can exacerbate the problem. If you are experiencing temporary adjustment challenges, there are some ways to combat and lessen the effects:

  • Similar to dealing with jet lag, adjust your rhythm to the new time. For example, on the first day or two, if you are able, stay in bed the extra hour so that you are not fatigued at the end of the day.
  • If the weather is nice, go outside and walk or sit in the sun.
  • Stay hydrated.
  • If your sleep is disrupted, consider checking whether melatonin is a good choice for you. (Always best to consult a health care professional)
  • Eat well and exercise.
  • Engage in some form of meditation or mindfulness practice (proven to have numerous health benefits).
  • Use a “light box” (but be aware that light boxes may be ill advised for people with cataracts, bipolar disorder; and can have other “mildly adverse affects”) [https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3839957/]

— If your symptoms linger or worsen, understand that SAD can be a serious form of depression and consult your health care professional,

Resilience

                Have you ever wondered something your whole life only to discover there’s a word that answers the question?

For me, that word is resilience and it answers the lifelong question, “Why do some people overcome all obstacles while others fall apart at the smallest stressor? 

Are some people naturally resilient? My best guess is, yes.

Is there a resiliency gene? My best guess is, no.

Even raised in the same family with the same life lessons, some siblings are more resilient than others. Some see failures and challenges as opportunities for growth. Others see failures and challenges as a threat to their identity.

Can resiliency be learned? Probably.

Knowing a resilient person and watching her model resiliency does not guarantee that another will adopt resiliency as a lifestyle. However, knowing such a person who teaches a program that fosters resiliency increases the likelihood.

I have been blessed to know such a person, who has made it her life’s mission to “Choose Love” and to teach others how to do that through a proven step by step program of Social Emotional Learning.

Scarlett Lewis is the mother of Jesse Lewis who was one of 20 children murdered at Sandy Hook Elementary on December 14, 2012. I met her in February of 2013 when the trauma was freshly palpable. Over the years although her loss and pain will likely never pass, her resilience has increased manifold.

So, I present to you, Scarlett, the world servant.