Enduring the rigors of the pandemic has been a challenge – a greater challenge than some folks could handle. The anxiety and uncertainty visited upon us by Covid “got to” numerous people who were otherwise high functioning, optimistic, capable personalities. As we moved from one Covid chapter to the next, fear of the unknown escalated and a gnawing dread became the unwelcome companion of many folks. On the other hand, some people dealt with the omnipresent gloom and potential for depression more effectively.
Covid has been devastating on a worldwide scale. On a personal level, a divorce can bring with it a Covid-comparable level of psychological trauma and emotional damage. However, as was the case during the pandemic, there are some people who handle the challenges of a divorce more effectively than others.
The overriding question is: Why are some people capable of dealing with large scale adversity while other folks are unable to do so?
The psychological and self-help literature is replete with descriptions of the personality traits that enable a person to cope with tragedy. The terms include “mental toughness”, “resilience”, “realistic awareness”, “internal strength” and others. Although the labels vary, the objectives are the same – enable the person to: 1) realistically evaluate the catastrophic situation, 2) evaluate one’s emotional/psychological reaction to the situation, 3) identify one’s inner strength to deal with the adverse situation, and 4) utilize one’s personal toughness/resilience to cope with the disaster.
Hugh van Cuylenburg, author of The Resilience Project, claims that personal resilience is the quality that pulled folks through the pandemic. According to Van Cuylenburg, a person can cultivate his/her personal resilience by practicing gratitude, empathy and mindfulness (GEM).
Gratitude – the act of being thankful and demonstrating appreciation for the positive aspects of one’s situation. By acknowledging the good things one encounters, a person develops the ability to focus on the positive situations and overlook the bumps in the road. Gratitude leads to a wider sense of perspective and a generally positive attitude.
Empathy – the ability to understand and share the feelings of another person. An empathetic person is curious about the people and situations they encounter. Empathy involves acknowledging the opinions, attitudes and perceptions of other people – the result is an appreciation for diversity of thought.
Mindfulness – the ability to be conscious of one’s actions and those of others in the present moment. Being mindful involves maintaining one’s focus on the “here and now” rather than projecting one’s attention into the “what if …” mode. Mindfulness leads to an accurate assessment of the existing situation which is the foundation for the follow-up steps necessary to tackle the problem.
GEM vs Divorce
According to Van Cuylenburg, gratitude, empathy and mindfulness are the building blocks upon which resilience is constructed and resilience is the key to surviving catastrophic situations.
There is no one-size-fits-all prescription to eliminate the pain associated with a divorce and everyone deals differently with personal catastrophe. BUT, no doubt, resilience is needed. GEM may help you build your resilience.