The Secret of Resilience

Did you know that in cross-cultural studies, the Anglo-European culture comes up as the least resilient population in the world? One interesting explanation for this (research by Martin Seligman in the field of Positive Psychology) has drawn a link between the emphasis on building high ‘self-esteem’ in recent generations. It seems that where previous generations (like the baby boomers) were told that ‘stuff happens, move on’, more recently, we have been taught that when bad things happen, we ought to be really disappointed and upset.

If you have studied NLP you will know about the phobia cure, is one of the strangest change methods. In the space of 20 mins it runs someone through a process of ‘rewinding a movie’ without even looking at it directly, or ever re-feeling the fear. Afterwards, without even understanding how, someone no longer feels the phobic response. In 20 mins it achieves what can take years in therapy. When you experience this, it is hard to NOT wonder if this method might be useful for people who have suffered a trauma.

Currently the US government is investing millions in a study of 3,000 veterans of different wars, to discover just that – can this basic method help people recover from PTSD? This is the largest clinical trial ever under-taken on an NLP process.

I was fascinated to discover that research has shown that being told ‘the worst is over’ during a traumatic event, can massively influence how badly someone is affected by the event in the long-term. And, you can read all about the research and applying it in ‘verbal first aid’ in a book called ‘The Worse is Over’ by Prager and Acosta.

I learnt all this and more because I saw Richard Bolstad, an NLP Trainer from New Zealand, present at the recent ABNLP Conference in Sydney. Richard works in crisis zones all over the world, training first responders in ‘verbal first aid’ for immediate contact with people during traumatic events. Richard also works with teams of volunteers who go in after the event. The change processes that Richard teaches enable people to help their fellow human beings to process the memories of an event in such a way as to prevent ongoing mental and emotional hardship.

And, when he isn’t working in crisis zones, Richard is working with people in the rest of the population to discover how to do resilience, something we all need for our everyday wellbeing.

In Richard’s work, which also draws on research in neuroscience, he has isolated a small number of mental strategies that cause people to stay stuck in the fear of the original event, instead of fully going through the recovery process. This moves beyond the concept of changing ‘the meaning you make of an event’ and into the ongoing thought processes that create being unresourceful long after a traumatic event.

The list of mental strategies of ‘chronicity’ (staying stuck in the feelings of the event) are fascinating. Some of them are, in the normal course of life, actually useful, healthy strategies that would be familiar to all of us, and then can become a problem if applied to really scary experiences.

For example, asking ourselves ‘Why me?’ when we fail a maths exam can help us reflect on what we could do differently, change our approach and succeed when we have another crack at it. Asking ourselves ‘Why me?’ about an experience completely outside our control, can lead to feeling guilty about surviving when others haven’t – a feeling that doesn’t help us get on with life.

I am going to be completely honest with you, I am hoping to bring Richard to Perth later this year so I can learn all of this fully from the master. In the meantime, I can offer you a few hours to explore this fascinating topic and do an exercise in ‘verbal first aid’ in person, at my Report Back from the ABNLP Conference. If you are interested in learning more about the Two-day Resilience Training, Click Here.


About the Author

I am a qualified Coach (ICF PCC level) with over 12 years professional experience as a Coach. I am also a Coach Trainer. I am passionate about supporting others to fulfil their potential and to turn their dreams into a reality.