A Coaching Power Tool Created by Beatrice Dupasquier
(Transition Coach, BARBADOS)
Today is Super Bowl Sunday, but I am watching another kind of game: Resistance vs. Resilience. Who’s going to be the winner?
The question I have in mind is: If we’d known who the winner would be before the game even begins (because let us are honest for a minute, we know who the winner should be!), would we keep betting on the wrong team? Why do we keep resisting when something we don’t want to happen happens? How does it serve us? At what point in life do we finally choose Resilience over Resistance? Can we make this choice once and for all?
My most significant experience in life is probably resistance. Think about it, does it resonate with you? Being raised to be strong, not to cry when falling, not to whine when losing?
I was told to resist, as harmful, painful, sad feelings hurt. No mother likes to see her child sad, disappointed, or worse, crying. On the other hand, as for your protection, you are told not to trust too many happy feelings either, as when they go away, well, it hurts also. So along with many other kids, I started in life resisting and fighting against my feelings; going through life thinking it is unfair, and bad things should not happen; that I can change it if I am determined enough and brave enough.
As I have been told, I used to believe that resilience is seen as a sign of weakness; that acceptance and resilience are synonymous with abandon and giving up.
It took me long enough to overcome this underlying belief and to realize that the biggest failure is ignoring the fact that you can only accept to be able to move forward. The real braveness is to be resilient.
Why did I choose Resistance vs. Resilience as my power tool? Because everyone goes through these stages in life, and more than once. Because it has been proved that the happiest people are the most resilient ones, because resilient people know that they will get hurt and that s*** happens, they get ready for it, embrace it, and learn to deal with it instead of fighting. Because as a transition coach, when I meet people for the first time after an unwanted event in life, or a nasty injury, they often are in the early stage of resistance.
It is essential to change from one mindset to another to move on with your life. From, “I wish it never happened” to “How can I learn to live with it ?” From resistance to acceptance, then you can move forward.
We don’t “move on” from grief. We move forward with it (Nora McInerny)
We do not forget or shut down feelings; we adjust and adapt.
My niche is not about grief but is closely related, as transition and changes can sometimes come from sudden death or unexpected injuries with its lot of nasty surprise, shock, and resistance.
I find it interesting and important to mention the difference between transition and change.
William Bridges has created a well-researched model, the Transition Model, for understanding the nuances of change and transition. He describes the change as an external event that happens to us (like an injury or missing a team selection for the next game). It begins with something ending, while a transition is our emotional implication, feeling, and psychological response to the change. This is where we struggle.
Different models are explaining the transition. I have chosen the one below as it resonates with me more than others. This one describes how we move through 4 phases :
- Denial, a form of self-protection during which we may feel shocked and confused, significantly, for example, when getting injured on the field.
- Resistance, experiencing a range of feelings from anger, fear, sadness, to relieve anxiety.
- Exploration, being curious and beginning to take small steps in our recovery strategy.
- Commitment, generating optimism as we gain momentum.
All resistance is a mobilization of energy, not a lack of energy. Those who resist are bundles of energy, not passive, lifeless blobs (Edwin Nevis)
Dictionary.cambridge.org defines resistance as
the act of fighting against something that is attacking you or refusing to accept
a force that acts to stop the progress of something or make it slower
Have you ever sail against the wind? Have you experienced any physical resistance? If not sailing, were you walking with a strong wind blowing towards you? How does that make you feel? How does it serve you?
We usually think that we cannot act another way but fight against the resistance. Is it true? Is it really true? What if you could use the wind to your advantage to reach your destination faster?
The energy, time consumption, and feeling implication have so much impact on people in a resistance mode; work, social life, relationship, and even health. Resistance inhibits growth and slows progression. It is essential to identify what does not serve you in life, but it might be difficult at first if you are not accustomed. Being able to shift the client’s perspective and look at the situation from a different angle is the coach’s role.
- Wastes time and energy
- Keeps you stuck in a situation
- Creates conflict in a relationship
- Alters creativity
- Creates stress
- Reduces motivation
- Distracts and delays action
Psychologists define resilience as the process of adapting well in the face of adversity, trauma, tragedy, threats, or significant source of stress.
As per the Oxford desk dictionary & thesaurus, resilience means :
Resuming in original shape after bending, compression
Readily recovering from a setback
It’s bouncing back from adversity and getting back to “your center” when thrown off balance. It’s remaining strong and flexible in the face of uncertainty.
Dr. Lucy Hone, the resilience expert, and researcher determined 3 common characteristics of resilient people:
- They get that s*** happens.
- They are good at choosing where they put their attention.
- They ask themselves, “Is what I’m doing helping or harming me?”
Resilience is rugged because you know that you expose yourself out of your comfort zone. Maybe not today, but you will be confronted with situations that will mess with you, your feelings, your security, your vulnerability. You have to uncover and confront discomfort to be able to accept it, use it, and move with it. It is what resilience is about. It is not giving up or throwing the towel, but being honest with yourself and knowing what you really want. Living by your truth and value no matter what. Being vulnerable only makes you human. By showing yourself to the world, you help to build trust with family, friends, or colleagues.
Acceptance is essential in Resilience, as you need to accept the change to be able to achieve resilience. It means getting something is ending, and something new will start. At this point, you have the choice of looking at the opportunity of a new beginning rather than thinking of the loss of the ending. As explained in the article below from “thesecretary.com,” the meaning of acceptance and the interpretation we have of it can be quite different. I like the term of positive acceptance, as it does serve you to evolve.
In our culture, the word “acceptance” is generally associated with resigning ourselves to situations or not trying to change them, and this is often seen as weak.
“Accepting what is” is very different. It means not wishing something was ALREADY different. Wishing things were already different is hoping for the impossible. Almost all unhappiness, dissatisfaction, and stress involve wanting something to be already different. The only exception is worrying about the future.
“Accepting what is” is helpful in any challenging situation, whether or not we can immediately change it. When we “accept what is,” we can focus only on what we need to do to resolve the situation or improve the future. If I’m under pressure to meet a deadline and I’m unhappy or stressed about this, I’m not “accepting what is.”
“Accepting what is” involves saying to myself, “this is the situation right now. It makes no sense to wish it were already different, and I’ll gain nothing by doing so”. If I totally “accept what is,” I can focus on what I need to do to resolve the issue or make it different: meet the deadline, ask for help, change the deadline, or whatever.
Becoming resilient requires:
- Self-love and Self-confidence
- Being true to yourself and others
- Being vulnerable
Resilience brings you :
- Peace and happiness
- Personal development
- Evolution (think of the resilience of the caterpillar to become a beautiful butterfly)
How would it make you feel?
What does not kill me makes me stronger – Friedrich Nietzsche’s (1888)
Imagine you have a friend, Teddy. He is a well-known Rugby player. He had played since he was 15 years old. He never imagined himself doing anything else. Sponsors adore him, he is a great team player, and he had an opportunity to play for his favorite team. A few Sundays ago, the shock only lasted seconds, but it crushed him down and ended his professional carrier. Teddy will not play again. His coach has told him that due to the accident, the club has to let him go. He is 23, and in his mind, his life is over. How can coaching help him move through this unwanted transition?
Teddy cannot imagine it is happening to him. I will play again, he thinks. If he could change what happened, he would do it differently. If only he could go back, change the facts, everything would be alright.
- If you were to witness your own funeral, what would you like your friends and family to say about you?
- As you don't have the ability to change the past, what do you want your future to look like?
- What is the most essential thing in your life?
Teddy is upset with himself and everyone around him. He does not accept any assistance, believing that no one can help him. He is scared and depressed, anxious about his future.
- What do you have that you can be grateful for?
- What are you resisting?
- What is keeping you from moving on?
- What are you afraid of?
- What do you need to resolve to address your fear?
Teddy has heard of someone in a similar situation, read some stories and some books about starting a new life and a new career. He starts thinking of what his life could look like without rugby.
- What can you do better than anyone?
- What makes you smile?
- Imagine you are 10 years old again, and rugby does not exist; who do you want to become when you grow up, what would you like to do?
Teddy believes now that it is possible, it will be hard and difficult, but he has the potential to strike again. He cannot change the past but will use it to be stronger
- How would you know that you are fully committed to your new goal
- Who can support you in your journey
- How would you celebrate each step toward your goal?
Of course, the questions listed above are only examples of a coaching process. It can only be the result of attentive and active listening during coaching sessions. It is fundamental for the coach to partner with the client and follows his lead and pace through the process of the different stages of transition.
- Would you like to live a life with no changes?
- How would you feel about it?
- What if you asked yourself this question when changes happen?
- Would it help to react differently?
- What makes people see resilience as a sign of weakness?
- What if we could teach children to deal better with negative emotions?
- Could it be easier for them to become resilient as adults?
- Do you see resilience as a way to finding peace within yourself?
- What if a little discomfort could bring you happiness?
- If being happy is one of the most common life goals for people nowadays, why do we keep resisting?
- What mindset do we need to achieve, to stop fighting what we do not have control over?
References and Sources
Definition from the Oxford desk dictionary & thesaurus
Dr. Lucy Hone – Resilience expert and researcher
William Bridges- Mindtools
Nevis, E. C. (1987, 1998). Organizational consulting: A Gestalt approach. Cleveland: Gestalt Institute of Cleveland.