• Bill Petrie

Developing Resilience in an Uncertain World - Part 2


In 1994, there was a sense of tremendous hope for a united South Africa - for a rainbow nation.

And, it feels like that dream has largely been lost.

The important thing to realise here is that lost dreams are part of life.

Anyone who has lived long enough will know this.

We dreamed of getting:

  • The right qualification

  • The right job

  • The right partner

  • A family of our own

And we found:

- That getting the right qualification was actually a bit of an anticlimax.

- That the dream job turned out to be much less alluring than we first thought.

- That relationships are more difficult than we'd ever have liked to have admitted.

Some of us built businesses on a dream. And they failed.

We have all had many high hopes that have failed.

And we had high hopes for South Africa too.

But, no matter how many hopes were shattered, we need to recognise that, in a healthy and resilient life, hopes arise and hopes die and new hopes come about.

And, we also need to recognise that hopes are important.

When the old hopes and dreams are no longer serving us, we need to take the time to mourn them.

And then we let them go.

And that means allowing ourselves time to be sad when we recognise the end of a dream.

In time, the sadness will pass and we will adapt to the situation as it is, changing it if we can and finding the best way to live in it if we can’t.

This is the resilient way.

Problems only arise when we get stuck.

And, with the shattering of big dreams, it’s very easy to get stuck.

Many of us, for example, have gotten stuck in anger.

Now it’s understandable that we have gotten angry and anger helps to a certain extent because it helps us to feel empowered.

But, that feeling of empowerment is really an illusion because we are not really empowering ourselves at all. We are shooting ourselves in the foot.

If we are hanging onto anger, we are hanging onto angry stories and we will tend to stew in those stories – stories that will eventually leave us feeling bitter, cynical and down.

Our task is to get below the anger – to the feelings of vulnerability – to the feelings of sadness, helplessness and hopelessness - so that we can mourn properly and move on.

But, we also need to be careful in doing so because we can also get stuck in stories of helplessness and hopelessness and the inevitable result is depression.

And, if we have gotten stuck in depression, we are even more likely to buy into stories of helplessness and gloom and that will only compound the 'stuckness.'

But, if we take a very deep breath and take a ruthlessly honest view, we will see that - for almost all of us - the truth is that we are not helpless nor is our situation completely hopeless.

Of course, it may well be true that things are not as good as we hoped (or not even nearly as good as we hoped) but it is still possible to make a good life for ourselves if we are creative and adaptive and put in the effort.

If people could find meaning in Auschwitz – and some did (as documented by Victor Frank) - then we can find meaningful lives here or elsewhere.

If we dig deep, there is always a way!

We have to create new dreams – new hope for our lives.

And then we need to live them fully.

This is the resilient way!


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