You’ve reached a retired site page. PBS the emotional life of your brain pdf longer has the rights to distribute the content that had been provided on this page. Stay Connected to PBS Subscribe to our Previews newsletter for a sneak peek at your favorite programs.
Check Out PBS Video Watch local and national programs from anywhere at anytime. Please forward this error screen to 69. 47 0 0 0 13 6. Ever dealt with a really difficult situation?
We’ve all had our emotional resilience tested. Sometimes it feels like you just want to give up. How do the toughest people summon the will to keep going? Steven Southwick and Dennis Charney have studied resilient people for over 20 years. They spoke with Vietnam prisoners of war, Special Forces instructors and civilians who dealt with terrible experiences like medical problems, abuse and trauma. In their book Resilience: The Science of Mastering Life’s Greatest Challenges they assembled the 10 things resilient people have in common so you and I can learn how to be more gritty and tough when life gets hard. Be Optimistic Yes, looking on the bright side keeps you going.
But what’s more interesting is that they’re not talking about delusional, pollyanna-style, rose-colored glasses here. Like pessimists, realistic optimists pay close attention to negative information that is relevant to the problems they face. However, unlike pessimists, they do not remain focused on the negative. They tend to disengage rapidly from problems that appear to be unsolvable. That is, they know when to cut their losses and turn their attention to problems that they believe they can solve.
And they’re not the only ones to realize this. When Laurence Gonzales studied survivors of life-threatening scenarios he found the same thing: they balance positivity with realism. But that leads to an obvious question: how the heck do you do that? Gonzales realized the distinction is in being realistic about the world but confident in your abilities: see the world accurately — but believe you are a rockstar. To learn how to be more optimistic, click here. But what about when your optimism gets tested and things get scary? Face Your Fears Neuroscience says there’s only one real way to deal with fear: you need to face it, head on.
This is what the most resilient people do. When we avoid scary things we become more scared. When you face your fears they become less frightening. To extinguish a fear-conditioned memory, one must be exposed to the fear-inducing stimulus in a safe environment, and this exposure needs to last long enough for the brain to form a new memory which conveys that the fear-conditioned stimulus is no longer dangerous in the present environment. What do Special Forces soldiers think when facing the most terrifying situations? This is a test that’s going to make me stronger. In addition to viewing fear as a helpful warning and guide, medic and SF instructor Mark Hickey believes that fear is good because it keeps him on his toes and serves as a platform for developing courage, self-esteem, and a sense of mastery.
To learn how you can have more grit — from a Navy SEAL platoon commander, click here. Good advice but what do we need to develop deep down to overcome life’s biggest obstacles? Have A Moral Compass The emotionally resilient people that Southwick and Charney studied all had a strong sense of right and wrong. Despite being in situations that could threaten their lives, they always thought about others, not just themselves.
In our interviews, we found that many resilient individuals possessed a keen sense of right and wrong that strengthened them during periods of extreme stress and afterward, as they adjusted to life following trauma. To learn a Stanford professor’s tips on how to make sure your kids have grit, click here. So morals strengthen our resolve in tough times. But where do they often come from?
1 thing that one researcher found when studying people who overcame tragedy. Amad found religious belief among survivors to be the single most powerful force in explaining the tragedy and in explaining survival. But what if you’re not religious? Much of the strength from religious activity comes from being a part of a community. So you don’t have to do anything you don’t believe in, but you want to be a part of a group that strengthens your resolve.
For example, the relationship between resilience and religion may partly be explained by the social quality of religious attendance. People who regularly attend religious services may have access to a deeper and broader form of social support than is often available in a secular setting. To learn what the survivors of deadly situations all have in common, click here. So being part of a group with beliefs is important. Get Social Support Even if you’re not part of a religion or community, friends and loved ones are key when life gets hard. When Admiral Robert Shumaker was a POW in Vietnam, he was isolated from the other captives. How did he maintain his resolve?
By tapping on the wall of his cell. His fellow prisoners could hear it, and they would tap back. During his eight years in North Vietnamese prisons, Shumaker used his wits and creativity to help develop an ingenious method of communication, known as the Tap Code, which provided a critical lifeline that allowed scores of prisoners to connect with one another. Our brains need social support to function optimally. Connection with others releases oxytocin which calms your mind and reduces stress. And the solution isn’t just receiving help from others — it’s giving help.