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C is for Coping - An A-Z Guide to Resilience

Updated: Mar 25, 2022

This article was written a few months back on Remembrance day.

Illustration: Michele Marconi/The Guardian

It's Remembrance Day today.

I'm on the job as a wellbeing keynote speaker and about to give a talk to the KPMG Executive Leadership Programme. At 11.11 we will pause for two minutes to reflect on the sacrifice made in the First World War and subsequent conflicts.

I rewatched the movie 1917 last night, to get close to the scale of suffering in the fields of France. It's the story of two young soldiers who must pass through No Man's Land to warn their advance battalion that they are about to walk into a trap that will kill them all. What struck me was the scale of carnage, a slowly unfolding human horror scene.

This happened in a society that did not have an adequate culture of coping. There's a memorable scene when a soldier loses his closest comrade and his Commanding Officer advises him that 'it's best not to dwell on it'.

Back then, you buried it, got on with it. A stiff upper lip. It's a response I know well, having lost my brother in a car accident when I was four. There was little culture of therapy or talking in rural Ireland in the nineties. My Father returned to work two days later. You just got on with it.

To survive back home, they had to rely on the three default coping mechanisms: numbing, distraction and avoidance. It lives on in our ongoing addiction to Booze, sugar, iPhones, medication, and over work. Keep the feelings down. I have met no one to date that has mastered their relationships with these.

In my work and research as a wellbeing keynote speaker I'm noticing that It's only now we're beginning to have a language around Trauma and the adversity that visits even the most average life.

The wars of the past, and the many faces of trauma, live on in our our bodies. They keep the score. The work now is for all to recognise its signs, and create encouraging spaces for us to do this repair work together. There's much talk of decarbonising the economy, but this is the cultural work of the 21st Century.

At the moment, organisations relate to inner work from a stress management perspective, not recognising that we carry far more than the tensions of a busy work period inside us. Untended, they play out in ways that sabotage our best intentions to do good work in the world. They are both an ethical imperative and a bottom line dilemma.

I wonder who are the daring few who will move into the territory of grief and trauma. How can we do this very personal work together in ways that also honours professional boundaries?

No one has the answer, but we must experiment. And a space to experiment is what I aim to offer my audience as a wellbeing keynote speaker.

This is an A-Z guide to showcase some unfamiliar concepts in resilience, originally shared on my LinkedIn and inspired by day-to-day insights from my own experience with burnout and my work as a wellbeing keynote speaker.

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