The art of resilience is learning to access and effectively use resources available to us when needed. In order to act resiliently and resourcefully we must first be in touch with what is happening so that we know what we need in each moment. We can be so busy that we are completely cut off from our own experience and therefore have no idea what we need to enhance life for ourselves in that moment. It is therefore really important to learn the skill of tracking our inner states. Our inner world is constantly communicating with us.
When we pay attention, we notice that moment by moment our internal landscape is shifting and changing in subtle ways. In order to cultivate true well-being, we must learn to attune to the messages and signals we are being sent from within.
Emotions are communications, expressions of a need that impel us towards certain actions to fulfil those needs. A useful entry point is a practice used by Dan Siegel where we begin to SIFT into our inner world by tuning, in turn, into:
Sensations – What sensations am I aware of in my body?
Images – What images do I notice in my mind?
Feelings – what feelings or emotions are present?
Thoughts – What thoughts are arising?
Lightly roving our attention through each of these domains of our inner world helps us chart the territory of our internal landscape in that moment. We can think of ourselves as geographers or cartographers of an unknown land, becoming acquainted with its contours and textures. When we have a clearer picture of how we are in any moment we are in touch, connected to our subjective experience, our own reality, and then can assess what we need to respond effectively.
Simply asking the question: What do I need? Is a powerful way to deepen this attunement with self, quietly listening for an answer. If there is a strong emotion or ‘part’ of ourselves active we can ask, what does this (part) of me need? Anger, sadness, jealousy, anxiety all speak to us in a particular way and are looking for different responses from us.
When we understand the need, we can then look to resources available to us to fulfil that need. Anger or anxiety might seek some kind of soothing, so we might explore different strategies to bring calm to the mind and body; sadness might seek to be held and comforted, to know that it is not alone; jealousy might be seeking reassurance from us etc. The point is to start developing the flexibility and imagination to respond in wise ways to these inner states. Other questions we can ask ourselves in moments of vulnerability might be:
How can I support myself?
How can I strengthen myself?
What resource can I draw on to help me in this challenge?