Luke Davis sees the resiliency in people as they suffer trauma and then go on to pick up not just themselves — but the rest of society.
The Oak Tree and the Reed
A reed got into an argument with an oak tree. The oak tree marvelled at her own strength, boasting that she could stand her own in a battle against the winds. Meanwhile, she condemned the reed for being weak, since he was naturally inclined to yield to every breeze. The wind then began to blow very fiercely. The oak tree was torn up by her roots and toppled over, while the reed was left bent but unharmed.
I have been a reader of The Good Men Project for the last few months and I have been astounded, not by the tales of abuse, trauma and despair, but by the sheer pluckiness of these individuals. Their sheer will not become a victim and give up and curl up in a corner. Their strength to not become just another survivor and do more than just put one foot in front of the other. These people aren’t broken by experiences more traumatic than most of us would ever want to imagine. On the contrary while they may be a little dented and have more than a few sensitive spots they appear to have been forged into people who are stronger at the core, more empathetic, more understanding then the average people we see around us.
When looking at the lives of those of other writers it brought me round to asking, “What makes some of these people able to bounce back from trauma while others seem to struggle for years to get from underneath it, or worse yet, choose suicide”. When I asked my trusty research assistant, Google, I stumbled onto resilience. Resilience is not a new term in psychology; researchers have been studying this for decades but it seems to be the key idea/reason why some people can take the worst the world can throw at them and not only survive but also thrive.
I won’t go into too much detail as the links below provide a far more detailed description than I want to go into but resilient people have some key traits:
- Awareness – They are aware of both their situation and their emotions
- Adaptable – They understand life changes and can change with it.
- Responsible – They believe they are responsible for their actions and the outcomes. At its basic level they believe they can affect change.
- Analytical – They can see the wider situation and solve it as a problem.
- Empathy – They are able to put themselves in others shoes and feel what someone else is going through.
- Optimistic – At the core they see silver linings in every cloud, but importantly they are aware of the dark cloud as well.
- Humour – They are able to take a stressful situation and toy with it.
I recently went through some old photos of mine and came across a photo of some friends I made in England while I was working there. One of the guys there had been a lifesaver for me. It was my first time in a foreign country, I didn’t have the right visa and I needed to find a job. The agency in the UK I went too specialised in arranging work visas but being new I didn’t know the ropes. This guy, Michael spent hours with me going through all the things I needed to do, which forms to fill in and so on. He did this for almost every new person who walked into the agency. I found out later he had been out of work for 4 months, living on a couch at a friend’s. He had been divorced about 9 months back and lost his hobby farm back home to the ex and pretty much been left destitute in a foreign country. Yet even with all of this he had the time to spend to help out strangers find jobs and arrange their visas. As it turns out he got a job in Sterling, Scotland about two weeks after I did.
I think back to people I have met, like Michael, who no matter how shitty a hand life deals out to them are always able to bounce back and give back far more than they ever received. I sat in a cab one day and listened to the driver tell me how he saw his brother shot in front of him because all the doctors at his hospital refused to support the new regime in Ethiopia in 1991. He then walked 500 miles to get to Sudan and the UN camp there and later walked a further 2000 miles through Egypt, Iraq and Iran to get to Pakistan where nine years after his brother was shot he managed to immigrate to Australia. When I met him he was currently re-doing his doctors degree so he could afford to get the rest of his friends and family out of Ethiopia. To me these people are the real heroes. When I think about people I would like to emulate it isn’t Superman or Spiderman or some other DC comic hero, it’s people like Michael or the cab driver.
I firmly believe that these resilient people are truly the heroes in our modern day society, those that seem to have disappeared after all the ancient stories and myths were written. Case after case of resilient people turned up in my research, they suffered some form of anguish, trauma or loss then months later they go out to campaign against a local road law, set up a charity, start blogs to help those who have been abused, raped, assaulted, divorced or they dedicate time to shelters, food kitchens, their local parish or schools, become doctors, nurses or firemen. These people have been forged in the fires of some hellish experience and have come out the other side knowing what they need to do in order to right the wrongs they experienced.
As fast as those at the top of our society try and pull society down through greed and corruption there are 1000’s, no millions, of these heroes out building society back up one brick at a time. They don’t have expensive flashy projects and budgets; they change society one blanket, one blog post, one rowboat in a flood, one campaign, one charity donation at a time. And they persist over and over again so that every day, millions of these small acts of heroism get repeated. These people’s actions form the foundation on which our civilised society is built yet we never stop to notice. It is their actions which are holding our society together and making it a better place to live.
So this is my thank you to all those people out there who have been hurt in the past yet persist in making the world a better place. I know you will read this and think I mean some other writer, some other person helping in the kitchen, some other person who stops at an accident to see if everyone is ok—because I know you don’t think of yourselves as heroes. To you it just makes sense that this is what you should be doing, that anyone else in your position would be doing the same thing. Therein lies the catch, other people don’t think the way you do or do the things you are doing.
For years I was looking in all the wrong places for modern day heroes, now I realise they have been around me all the time, I just never noticed before.
Photo: gerrythomasen / flickr
Links on Resiliency: