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STS project diary 5 – Managing Mental Trauma – Value & Resilience

Updated: Apr 24, 2022

Strong tree with intertwined roots Image by Jeremy Bishop

Discovering our own values strengthens our resilience, and provides a nutrient-rich soil for our growth and development.

Managing Mental Trauma Value and Resilience

Meeting 5 – May 30th & June 6, 2021, both cohorts

Values, reasons, and resilience are intertwined in many different facets of our life. Over the years, countless studies have demonstrated and proved this fact, but how and why does it work?

Resilience refers to the elastic ability to bounce back or recover from adversity, stress, trauma, or sudden change in circumstance – that causes a low functioning state or being locked in a stop situation.

Values, in relation to resilience, refers to whatever we do that is motivated by what we appreciate, love, cherish, and hold important in our lives, and therefore would give or provide it what it needs, and by that – actively pay the required price, (price to mean – effort, time, energy, thought, money, etc.).  For example waking up at all hours to help a young person in need, because you value human life and human dignity, or a teacher that spends countless hours developing a unique plan to help a child learn in a different way because they are having difficulty in class – the teacher’s value and importance for education to all children motivates her work. No doubt there are hundreds of examples throughout our life and history to demonstrate this.

As most participants are at a high risk of Secondary Traumatic Stress due to the nature of their work, the project focuses on building resilience from the inside out to better meet the different challenges they face when helping others in very difficult situations, the first step of which is reconnecting to the values and reasons that motivated them to do this work, to begin with.

This session started with an interesting demonstration, introducing the same game played last time, the facilitator asked everyone to bring different random objects to the camera – (round, blue, long…).  In the second part of the game – participants were asked to find an object they valued because it held a special memory, moment, or has a significant meaning to their life.  They registered the difference between bringing random objects, searched for by the automatic system (find, fetch, show), as against, activating a completely different platform of awareness that consciously caused them to go inwardly deeper to find an object with a special endearing quality and value.  Participants reflected that finding the object of special value, required them to consciously seek the value and reconnect to the special feeling in their heart and mind and the warmth that it caused. It was not an automatic limbic brain functioning – but a higher functioning of the rational brain.

COVID-19 Nurses & Therapists at Manchester Memorial Hospital (May 2020)

Nurses and therapists take a few minutes to break from their difficult routine during the Covid19 Pandemic. While trying to save lives and provide as much dignity as possible, they also dealt with much grief for the great losses, their own fears, and pain. And through it all, they kept going every day, sustained by their great value and hope for human life.

What we value and hold most dear in our life is often not consciously sought after, remembered, or reaffirmed from ourselves to ourselves, or from ourselves to others. Mostly we are overtaken by the routine grind where the centre of gravity is in the lower functioning Limbic system.  As soon as we open our eyes in the morning (and maybe even before…), the limbic brain bombards and floods us with everything that must be dealt with today, now, this minute… kids, spouse, work, bills, money, unfinished projects, tasks waiting to get started, social media, news alerts, and the list anxiously and overwhelmingly goes on and on.   And it does exactly that – it grinds the person down – causing burn out, fatigue, while gradually forgetting the deeper reasons why we do what we do, and the important values these reasons stem from, which are the energizing source of power for anything we do.

Building resilience, to be able to withstand the pressures of life in its many shapes, forms, and influences, to be able to stay connected to what is of prime importance, requires the person to slow down enough to allow the rational brain to get engaged, and begin to trace the values of our importances, what we hold dear and are willing to pay the price for, even if it is challenging, difficult and gut-wrenching at times.

In small groups, the participants were able to connect to some of the values in themselves, by speaking about the values they hold for people who are dear to them, or what motivates them to get out of bed every morning and continue with their work. Many remarked how special it was to have the time to be able to think about it and the precious feeling of being with their values.

Reaching for a place of value in yourself, by thinking about your reasons and your values for your work, the people you work with, or your family and loved ones, every day, (the keyword here is YOURS – not anyone else’s), as a daily exercise and reminder of your intention and purpose.  For example – a purpose might be:  relief of pain and suffering, or creating a safe circumstance for youth at risk, improving opportunity for human life to have a dignified existence, or to create a future where peace and reconciliation are possible, or to always have love and kindness present in your dealings, and so on….   This charges the systems with much higher energy through the rational brain, creating the foundation for conscious decision and self-election for that day, and gradually builds resilience.  When you meet a challenging situation, keeping your values and reasons consciously upfront in you will enable you to react from a cooler place of value – and not from the heat of the amygdala.

It is not theoretical – if it is practiced daily

There is a great benefit and importance to set a few minutes aside each day to nurture your reasons, values, and purpose, and consciously include them in your thinking as you go about your day and tasks – this way each task will be filled with your values fresh each time, this will maintain the resilience and re-energize you.

Resilience cannot be sustained in the values of the past – it needs the values to be new and freshly arrived at each time, so here is an exercise anyone can do:

  1. Set aside 20 – 30 minutes of your day – preferably upon waking up or just before bedtime (or both)

  2. Make a list of the different things or tasks you need to do today (or tomorrow when you wake up)

  3. Select 3 items from the list – and for each one – answer the following question:

  4. Why am I doing this?

  5. What do I value about this task or person that I need to deal with?

  6. What purpose does it serve?

There is no magic trick or wave of a wand that will build resilience.  Building resilience takes effort and time investment – time is a precious commodity these days, but if you value resilience it is essential to build the patterns that allow resilience to be developed. But that goes back to the question:

Do you want to build resilience – and if so, isn’t a little bit of time – a small price to pay?

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