What is resilience actually made of? – Anton Babushkin, PhD
*(the examples provided below are composite cases, synthesizing disguised information and not any patient in particular)
What does it mean when the CEO persists in her vision? How does she bring it to life? As a psychoanalyst, I often hear the inside story. Emily’s, for example.
Emily’s business concept reversed the order of online grocery shopping. It began with shopping carts that accompanied recipe websites and blogs.
Like the recipe? Drag and drop the grocery list into the shopping cart app. The app scans the inventory of local stores, looking for the markets that carry all the items at the lowest cost. Pay a little extra, and the grocery store pulls it all together and delivers to your door or curbside.
The idea was simple. However, to create the company from her vision meant many hours of creating the prototype, recruiting the right people, and convincing markets, bloggers and customers to use it. Emily had to fill roles in which she had no prior experience: project management, recruitment, beta testing, and sales.
Not only did she face these challenges, she had to overcome them.
Although Emily felt she could be a good entrepreneur, she also feared she was a fraud. She had no business background or any reason to believe she could be successful. People close to her said, “Are you sure you can do this?”
She shared her vision and the obstacles in her work with a thoughtful therapist. Their goal was to understand her inhibitions and a failure of courage. What was getting in the way?
As she was growing up, Emily’s parents rarely recognized her abilities or skills. They often spoke about the successes of other people but did not meet her need to feel capable and admired. Her parents said instead, “Acknowledging your accomplishments is unnecessary. You should know we are proud of you.”
Emily lived according to her parents’ silent criticism. She dismissed her achievements and found herself seeking the advice of people who criticized her – unconsciously repeating the pattern of her upbringing. It was only in therapy that she began to recognize these patterns and gradually adjust them.
What is the place of the therapist in confronting the obstacles that the patient faces? Is the therapist a silent listener—with the occasional question, “How do you feel about that?” That is a simplification of a complex, intimate exchange.
A good therapist helps the patient create a space where she can get to know more about herself and articulate the answers to essential questions:
“How are things going in your life?”
“What is working and what isn’t?”
The therapist and patient share in the investigation: How the patient makes decisions; how she became the person she is today. These new insights help the patient to make changes—consciously— to the poor coping skills that may have gone unnoticed.
Emily accepted her self-criticism as a true evaluation rather than behavior that had a history in her family. Once she understood that she had learned to devalue herself, she was able to change. She sought helpful mentors and consciously acknowledged her achievements. These new strengths helped her persist and ultimately reach success in her business.