Q&A with George Hofmann, author of Resilience: Handling Anxiety in a Time of Crisis

1.What is your book about and why did you write it?

My book is about anxiety: how it is a productive emotion that can turn against us at a time like this. We each feel it, but for some of us it disrupts our lives so badly that we can no longer function. I’ve been there. In the book I present a method of practices to handle, and manage, our anxiety. When things are as bad as they are today, we’re never going to get rid of it, but we can train ourselves to align the emotions that turn against us with the reality of what we face. We can draw on resilience to live well and place anxiety back into its natural, beneficial place.

2. How would you define resilience? Many psychologists define resilience as an absence of depression or absence of struggle during difficult circumstances, do you agree or disagree? Why?

The word resilience comes from a Latin root meaning “to spring back” or “the act of rebounding.” It implies that we’re vulnerable, we’ve been knocked down. We draw on inner strength, or faith, or both to manage what troubles us and return to a position of fortitude. I don’t see it as an absence of struggle, because the very word describes the struggle and our ability to overcome it.

3. How can people become more resilient, especially right now given everything people are going through?

I write that anxiety resides at the intersection of uncertainty and belief. Belief can offer us a font of resilience, but belief, especially erroneous beliefs we hold about ourselves, can inhibit any ability we may have to draw on resilience that exists deep inside of us, Somewhere within us we all share this capability. A practice like mediation can help us ferret out those negative beliefs and reassess our situation and our ability to deal with it. From that place we can become less anxious and discover resilience we fear we’re incapable of.

4. What advice would you have for people who do not feel resilient or just are not resilient. For example, they may get fired from a job and go into a state of deep depression or feel so overwhelmed with everything that is going on in their life that they can not function?

It’s OK to feel distressed, or anxious. We’re not machines, and in a situation like the current crisis, with ill health and job loss all around us, we’re all going to face the terror that we cannot function. We’ve never been through anything like this before. But each of us has faced failure, trouble and anxiety, and we can draw on what we’ve learned and combine that with some simple tactics to break down this overwhelming panic into parts we can work with and regain some control over our emotions. From that place of assurance we persevere.

5. Why do you think some people are resilient during adversity and other people are not. What do you think distinguishes the two groups?

Faith is of tremendous benefit here, as is a dedication to others. I think resilient people are able to set themselves aside when they lose their will to overcome and just live for others. There’s a tremendous energy that comes from empathy and charity, and if we can’t spring back from a dark place for ourselves, we can certainly do it for those we love and those in desperate situations who can benefit from our help. People who are not resilient get stuck in their heads and lose the ability to truly encounter difficulties free of perseveration about what holds them down. It takes surrender to discover a source of strength to rebound from crisis. People who are not resilient are too rigid in their attachment to the inner thoughts that defeat them.

6. What is one experience you have gone through in life where you felt like you were not resilient and what is one experience in life where you felt like you were resilient. What were some differences in those two experiences and what did you learn from them.

I’ve struggled with bipolar disorder most of my life, and I’ve faced situations where I found no strength within me to draw on at all. I lost all faith and believed life was not worth living, my world was so dark. I’ve attempted suicide, which is an act completely devoid of resilience. But such an act is an act without discipline as well, and I think some discipline of will is necessary to be resilient. After I failed at suicide, thank God, I clawed back to the point that I was able to work. I discovered and developed the methods I describe in my book. In that work I found that I, too, could rebound from despair and thrive. Today I work with others to help them find the same will to overcome the troubles that plague them.

In the current crisis we all find ourselves in an unfamiliar place and that is exceptionally uncomfortable. We can lean on people who care for us and people who care for others as examples to emulate. We can find some sense of faith even when we feel meaning has abandoned us. We can handle our anxiety and discover that we, too, are resilient enough to spring back from whatever fills us with dis-ease. Resilience is something within each of us, we just need to discover ways to unleash it. I hope that in the book I’ve presented some ways to help people realize that promise.

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For more information about George Hofmann and Resilience: Handling Anxiety in a Time of Crisis please click here. His book is currently a book. His book is currently part of a Resilience Book Series. For more information about the Resilience Book Series please visit https://www.resilience-books.com.

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