Resilience is the new buzzword in therapy. It began as a way to support disadvantaged children and adults but has now moved to the affluent high street and business. Here, it’s linked to performance and toughness, which can be valuable indeed, and here’s it’s natural conclusion:
"Now the word we use is "productivity," a term insidious in both its usage and creep. The not-so-subtle implication is always: Don't you want to be a productive member of society? Pundits across the political spectrum revel in the fact that US productivity (a.k.a. economic output per hour worked) consistently leads the world. Yes, year after year, Americans wring even more value out of each minute on the job than we did the year before. U-S-A! U-S-A!
"Except what's good for American business isn't necessarily good for Americans. We're not just working smarter, but harder. And harder. And harder, to the point where the driver is no longer American industriousness, but something much more predatory."
It’s important to be able to do things we don’t want to do and to remain buoyant in stressful situations, and this is especially important when your income is a total of £66 a week, you live in a hostel and can’t read. Resilience therapy believes it's good to make people who have been fundamentally damaged by life get back into the world, without addressing the material facts of many people's lives.
Most of the time, clients who hear their therapist talk to them about resilience have survived experiences their therapist can't imagine. They've survived, begged and borrowed their way forward, made incredible decisions that kept them alive. They're often also now unemployed or otherwise in receipt of benefits, which is the real, if unconscious, issue for many agencies, funders and therapists. They need to stop being a scrounger and start being a taxpayer.
"Resilience is that ineffable quality that allows some people to be knocked down by life and come back stronger than ever. Rather than letting failure overcome them and drain their resolve, they find a way to rise from the ashes. Psychologists have identified some of the factors that make someone resilient, among them a positive attitude, optimism, the ability to regulate emotions, and the ability to see failure as a form of helpful feedback. Even after misfortune, resilient people are blessed with such an outlook that they are able to change course and soldier on."
I'd propose that it's one thing to rise from the ashes of a business failure, and quite another to not be overwhelmed by childhood abuse, poverty, lack of opportunity and depression.
People in less desperate situations have more choices. Your boss wants you to do more with less? It’s not the end of the world, and therapy will give you the time to explore what you find acceptable and unacceptable before you find yourself working a 60-hour week. Your profits are decreasing and material costs are rising; just how badly do you want to risk making your family homeless?
A great many of our problems are caused by living the life we think we should be living: two cars, a mortgage, kids in (any old) private school, high status, high income. Who really benefits from this narrative?
Flexibility, strength and determination are important parts of our character but isn’t the ultimate goal not to remain in a stressful situation doing things you don’t want to do?
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