Monday 16 August 2010

Personal (Inner) Resilience - An Introduction

Welcome to our week on personal/inner resilience on the TN Blog. As in the previous topic weeks a different person will be writing each day, so do keep coming back!

Resilience is a key concept in Transition, taken from ecology. It means the capacity of natural systems to withstand shocks and changes without falling apart. We’ve discussed in Transition Circles and Carbon Conversations, for example, how unresilient the global industrialised food system is in the face of peak oil and climate change.

Personal, or inner, resilience is spoken about a lot less. It’s far easier to talk about what’s out there than what’s in here.

So I’m beginning by taking a personal look at the four elements Rob Hopkins suggests form a starting point for considering Personal Resilience (Pattern 1.5), based on the new way of explaining Transition as a Pattern Language:

Humour For me humour means keeping light-hearted in the face of darkness and difficulties. So I first have to acknowledge those difficulties are really there and resist the temptation to laugh about, dismiss or go above what I need to be looking at. There’s nothing so unfunny as making light of serious matters. When I catch myself doing it, I get really crestfallen. I also think self-amusement is a better term than humour, as it’s less woolly and has more self-responsibility in it. Taking myself too seriously definitely decreases the personal resilience factor.

Creative Exploration For me this blog is creative exploration linked with inner resilience. Each time I come to write a post, it forces me to engage in the subject in a way I wouldn’t ordinarily do. Which brings awareness to things that otherwise remain implicit. I’m paying attention to what I’m writing and bearing in mind that people will be reading it. Through it I’ve found increased confidence in all kinds of ways, including when I'm speaking with people about Transition.

Relaxation I do not meet many deeply relaxed people. I rarely feel deeply relaxed myself. I also distrust blissing out and absenting from my body and the moment, though it’s tempting to do so. Relax…and escape.

I was in conversation with a fellow transitioner on Saturday who told me he so micromanaged his worklife (which sometimes involves a 70 hour week), it was spilling over into everything, even his dreams! He said laconically that micromanagement ran in both his and his partner’s families, and early signs of it were appearing in his toddlers. He seemed relaxed but he was probably just exhausted.

For me relaxation is being fully engaged, awake and present to what I’m doing and what’s going on. My shoulders are not up around my neck and I’m not uptight. I’m not micromanaging the moment but I am in it. Being a control freak (and we’re all control freaks now) and relaxation are incompatible partners. And we’re going to need far less of the former and more of the latter to build personal and collective resilience. All right now, everybody take a deep breath…how are those shoulders? (Mine have just dropped about six inches…)

Optimistic Thinking Do you remember how in the old days people were described as predominantly of one humour or another? There were four main ones: choleric, sanguine, melancholic and phlegmatic. Well, optimistic thinking to my mind definitely belongs to the sanguine temperament. The main temperament of Transition is pretty sanguine too, with its emphasis on the positive. So what do you do if like me you’re a bit more on the phlegmatic side (perhaps with superficially sanguine personality characterisitcs and choleric/melancholic side notes)? Oh dear, should this be in the humour aka self-amusement paragraph? Perhaps I’m not best placed to talk about this one. Optimistic thinking, anyone?

Relaxation - Sunrise over the East Coast Aug 1 2010


  1. Yes creative exploration is what this blog is good at, that's what happens for me when I write here anyway. You have to think about what you think, or what you think you think - optimistically or otherwise! I'm working on a choleric transition post for later on this week. Only kidding! Or am I?

  2. Robertson Cooper offer a free personal resilience profiling tool called i-resilience:

    It's a personality-based tool and you receive a feedback report about where you're likely to draw your natural resilience from and also how these are likely to affect you at work.