The Rosetta Stone of the EASE endeavour is to build or discover or recreate personal resilience. How is this done?Through the modern medium of psychological therapy. However, it could be argued resilience is an innate characteristic of human being. But how far do we want to pursue this line of perspective? To Darwinian evolutionary theory? Survival of the fittest? I do not think it ethical or presently acceptable to align psychological resilience in the 21st century with evolutionary biology. However, the current politicisation of everyday life and the medicalisation of what is known as mental health pose two similar but distinct problems.
Politicisation of everyday life seems akin to a parsimonious conceptualisation of human experience and transcendence analogous to evolutionary theory. Medicalisation of human experience is reductionist and antithetical to personal responsibility. Those born to wealth will be healthier for longer and have far greater life opportunities and expectancy. This is a contemporaneous conundrum on a global scale. It is neither politically popular to promote real communism in many of the world’s largest (liberal democratic) societies nor is it popular to advance classism and elitism. Thus, we are faced with philosophical dilemmas proposed and espoused by existential thinkers of the past two hundred years. Is there a 21st century answer to these quandaries? I believe so and have worked to establish how this might look in our secular societies that advance psychological support. In brief I propose a notion of ‘Herd empowerment’ not herd immunity. We may be vaccinated against dangerous emergent disease (or medicine and science may alight upon technologies mastery of formerly life-threatening illnesses). But we cannot be inoculated against the travails of being in this world.
Being a psychological therapist for me speaks to participating in immersing oneself in the difficulties of the other with several tools – not skills. What are or might be some of these tools? Let’s begin where we would like to be – resilience. Thus, first let’s elucidate my view of resilience. Resilience is the outcome of useful psychological therapy in modern western social, political and economic organising systems. Ideas expressed in others forms of language and activity and response to hardship are conceptualised in myriad ways. Complex as it may be, the state of nirvana is once such attainment along with other ancient practices, shamanic and ceremonial as well as cultural and religious. And so if we accept for now my view that resilience is a goal that embraces my definition of recovery…where recovery is not the absence of difficulty but the acceptance of that which is inevitable and the ability to live with the challenges of existence… how then might this be achieved? However we define the notion of recovery, it assumes that someone needing to recover has fallen into difficulty of some sort. In the field of psychological therapies for me this means finding oneself unable to tolerate, manage, overcome or live with experience that has been perceived, interpreted or responded to as distressing or disabling at any level. All persons define distress or disability differently and respond differently and in different degrees. But what is clear is that without some form of assistance, being well,aka recovering, is unattainable without some support. And so, to a 21st century vision for such support for which the outcome is resilience to a degree that a person recovers, discovers and creates the ability to live in as satisfying and/or meaningful manner as it possible or desirable for that person.
Again, from a socio-politico-economic position this has become increasingly difficult in an advanced society that announces a reciprocal paradigm of entitlement and accountability. This says if one is unwell one is entitled to help. Further, systems are created that propose services are accountable for treating whatever malaise is experienced. While this contravenes the possibility of resilience enhancement, it is the handmaiden of what is known as modern liberal democratic capitalism. Thus, how do we embrace this contextual world and yet highlight possibilities for resilience creation that is sustainable? I accept and believe that a major shift is necessary in the thinking of the authors of modern political power bases. We have to embrace the notion that people are the partners of change in the first instance to begin the journey towards herd empowerment. If we can conceive of this rather than it be a solipsistic hypothesis then we can in my view commence to acknowledge the inherent power of community to advance the empowerment of the populace.Of course this is immensely problematic when we find ourselves precipitously thrown into a global health crisis that alerts authorities to act in a draconian manner whilst trying desperately to hold on to dwindling embers of their infrastructure of entitlement and accountability.These two positions of irreconcilable. Hence, the confusion of the populace both expecting cure and care whilst having their liberties protected and choices kept open. And so for me, it is necessary to in the philosophies of existence that I find theses that lead to the solutions to seemingly irreconcilable dilemmas. The modern era of ideas emerging from existential philosophy, phenomenology of man’s being and humanistic notions of wellbeing gives us hope of finding answers. Psychological therapy is at first an individual endeavour that focuses on, for me, what I call recovery of the individual. But individuals make up our community thus this endeavour needs to be adopted as a modus vivendi for us. Therefore, with resilience as the outcome to arrive at, we must engage the person in a process that promotes understanding of self, reflection of the meaning and value of all experience including that which has been and might be anticipated as distressing and /or disabling.
To embrace and understand this is one key that unlocks the doors of evaluation. This reflexive evaluation allows for the journey towards ownership and agency in respect of said experience. And with that comes the appreciation that what has been or might be cannot be dismissed or eradicated but must be integrated into who and how one is and may become. With this acceptance come the opportunity to then be freed to choose how one responds to experience or interprets such experience. This agency is the doorway to empowerment and it is this sense of empowerment even in an impoverished inhibitive world that is the opening to resilience. In this way, the individual is enabled to face the shared problems of humanity and regain the connection to others to enhance personal power and achieve herd empowerment.