KELLY BREVIG COLUMN: Positive growth does not happen by accident
A pliable object is something that can be bent or shaped without adding or taking away any other materials. Pliable means flexible, adjustable and resilient to strain caused by external forces. We as humans are most certainly malleable, like a palm tree that survives hurricane gales. We can endure extreme stress, pressure, trauma and uncertainty, and have the amazing ability to adapt and readjust to the form we were meant to take. According to the American Psychological Association, "resilience is not a trait that people either have or don't have. It involves behaviors, thoughts and actions that can be learned and developed in anyone." Did you catch that? Anyone and everyone can learn and develop resilience. This means that no one is hopeless; we all have untapped potential to rise above the worst of life's circumstances.
Building resilience begins with developing healthy relationships. Everyone needs to have a caring and supportive person in their life that they can trust. Often these relationships will fluctuate and change but may begin with a parent or family member. It may be a therapist or teacher; it could be mentor or other caregiver. When a person is shown love, respect, and is valued, they have the ability to change and grow. They become pliable. A person who can adapt in adversity is confident, believes in themselves, can make plans for their future and can manage and communicate feelings and emotions. Positive growth does not happen by accident or in a vacuum, it happens because of the vested interest of another caring person.
A question was posed to a group of people the other day: "How do we create hope?" While there are many different ways to ignite desire and the expectation of positive outcomes, the simplest answer is by building (supportive) relationships. We create hope through the investment of time, care and the belief that one person can make a difference. This means that every teacher sitting on their deck and finally catching their breath from a hectic school year; you make a difference. Every parent that is tired and has exhausted resource after resource for the benefit of their child; you make a difference. The neighbor who asks with concern how things are going; you make a difference. The familiar face at church, the consistency of the store clerk, the stranger that acts in kindness, you all make a difference. When we invest in others with genuine care, we grow hope.
Sometimes, despite the best of relationships, we may find our compassion reservoir a bit depleted. We may be in dire need of a resilience inoculation. The great news is that summer vacation was created to refill our vessels and reprioritize what is of most importance. This is the time to dream big and create goals. It's the time to make opportunities for self-discovery and for accepting change as just a part of living. It's the time to put life in perspective and slow down, remembering that we are pliable and no matter what external forces cause strain, we were designed with the ability to go back into the shape for which we were created. This is the time to take care of you.
Hope grows throughout the year, but is intensified when we are most refreshed and have taken care of our own basic needs. Sometimes the best way to refill our cup is by creating healthy boundaries. Ironically, by practicing boundaries, (saying "No," when we are beyond capacity, communicating our needs directly and acting upon our own values) we are modeling resiliency to others. Hope is a circular phenomenon that connects us to each other. It is shared, learned, valued, mentored and is reliable. Hope drives resiliency and helps us regain our original shape.
One last bit about self-care; while we are all interconnected and hopefully encouraged to deepen our relationships, sometimes our best of efforts may seem futile. Don't give up. We never know the difference we are making in the lives of another. We also can't carpet the world. We can however, provide a pair of slippers from time to time.
Kelly Brevig is Suicide Educational Services Coordinator for Evergreen Youth & Family Services, Inc.