Resilient Tree

Recession, Recovery, Resilience

Having the resilience to survive recession and handle recovery may mean reassessing some cherished beliefs

The world throws all manner of difficulties and stresses at us. These may be sudden shocks such as an illness, an accident or being made redundant or they may be long-term pressures such as financial hardship or overwork that can lead to burnout. Either way, they have an emotional impact.

So how do we remain resilient – able to maintain grace under pressure and able to bounce back?

How we handle adversity largely depends on how we handle ourselves and how we manage our emotions and behaviour to avoid being overwhelmed or blown off course. This requires self-control and most importantly clear thinking.

Our ability to see things clearly

In the same way that emotional intelligence depends on accurate self-assessment, resilience and managing ourselves in the face of adversity requires accurate and realistic assessment of the external environment and our position within it. We have to avoid leaping to conclusions or applying outdated assumptions when trying to understand the situation.

Many of us have strongly favoured patterns of thought and habit based on experience. But these can be less than helpful if they limit our ability to think objectively about our present situation.

Individuals develop own constructs

In his theory of Personal Constructs developed in the 1950s, the clinical psychologist George Kelly suggested that individuals develop constructs as their own idea of reality in order to understand and make sense of the world around them. Being based on individual observations and experiences constructs are different for every person. They are personal points of reference that embody personal assumptions about motivation, values and choices.

Personal constructs are in effect working hypotheses of how the world works. They enable us to predict outcomes and anticipate events but, like strong beliefs, they also affect how we see the world. To a man with a hammer everything looks like a nail!

As long as our experience reflects our own internal picture of the world around us we may be scarcely aware of our constructs but if there is a disparity we are capable of changing or updating our interpretation.

What to make of the world today?

In times like these, there are huge changes going on in the economy and in the world at large. It was ever thus. For example, those who grew up during earlier recessions have different beliefs about borrowing money from those who grew up in times of affluence. Our ability to adapt and respond constructively and imaginatively to the changes will depend on our ability to review the constructs we are using at home and at work.

Perversely, the end of recession is also a time of danger. Those who have survived and held up the roof during the dark days may well be battered and exhausted.  They may be vulnerable unless they are able to look ahead and grasp the future.

It is not always easy to adjust old beliefs and ways of thinking and sometimes it may mean recognising some uncomfortable truths. When we are under pressure we tend to lose our peripheral vision which makes it much harder to think differently and creatively about our situation.

What you can do right now / Your next steps

What we can do is make ourselves stop and pause for thought. If we analyse cause and effect and make an accurate assessment of what is really going on, we can begin to identify a wider range of options and decide what is appropriate to pursue.

Constructs are not only personal. They arise also in business, political and other contexts. Businesses have to recognise changes and adapt their business models and approaches accordingly if they are to survive. And at the present time many are busy reassessing the geo-political realities.

Accurate assessment of the situation is the basis for resilience and realistic optimism. Rather than playing the old record or the old movie, we can see that there is an alternative story. We can make a conscious choice to follow a new course rather than falling back into a habitual response.

All change requires us to renew our constructs and developing a new vision of our way forward will always precede action.

Being flexible and resilient we can choose to water the flowers rather than worrying about the weeds!

Jo Ouston