20 September 2011 - Realise2 Strengths Dynamics #19
Whether we like it or not, bad things happen to good people. We need only check the news each day, for it is sure to be covering another crisis somewhere in the world. How we cope with a crisis, and hence how we come out on the other side, can in part be influenced by the dynamics of the strengths we have.
If you're strong in Centred, you might only define a "crisis" by reference to other people's reactions. To you, there may be no such thing. The person with Centred as a strength is calm and self-assured above all, so when the crisis hits, they will be the proverbial one who keeps their head while all about them are losing theirs. But while Centred on its own helps you to stay calm in the face of crisis, how it combines with other strengths in your profile will shape its ultimate manifestation.
Centred combined with Humour, for example, belies a person who can laugh in the face of adversity - and most likely keep up the spirits of those around them as well. These two examples suggest the two underlying faces of Humour, and give us clues as to how they might both play out.
It is existential Humour that gives us the perspective to be able to cope. We laugh in the face of adversity as we recognise the absurdity of our human situation. To do anything else would depress us beyond repair. This existential Humour characterises the so-called "black humour" sometimes seen in the many professionals who deal with death and disaster. Put simply, if they were to lose their existential (or religious) perspective, they would be unable to cope - and it is this same existential perspective that can also underly the development of the Centred strength as we see below.
In contrast, it is interpersonal Humour that can allow us to support others, by bringing levity to a situation and increasing the amount of positive emotion in the room. This face of Humour, when combined with Centred, is again used as a tool to give perspective, but is more focused on the positive well-being of others. The person with Centred may take the load of the situation upon themselves, but lighten the load of others through their use of Humour in this way.
In situations of crisis, Resilience and Bounceback are of course two more strengths that will combine to both shape, and be shaped by, the strengths dynamic with Centred. When Resilience and Centred combine, they appear to be natural companions. Resilience allows us to cope effectively with the challenges around us, whereas Centred provides us the calm self-assurance that we will be able to cope.
For Centred and Bounceback, the dynamic is one of using the crisis situation as a means of propelling oneself forward to do even greater things than were possible before. Centred helps us to keep calm, remain self-assured, and be focused on what it is that we need to do and why. Bounceback provides the inner drive and motivation to laugh in the face of the universe, to prove that just because we were knocked down once doesn't mean that we won't come back all the stronger time and time again.
This Centred and Bounceback combination, especially when used in times of crisis, can also be fuelled by their dynamic with the strength of Growth. People strong in Growth are focused on how they can grow and develop. Everything that happens to them is feedback. Centred helps them keep the perspective to see that, and Bounceback provides the motivation for the growthful journey on which they will embark.
In my previous academic work (including my PhD), I studied the phenomenon of posttraumatic growth - how people change and grow positively following trauma - and the psychological processes that underpin this growth. From the perspective of strengths psychology, I would now argue that there are certain strengths that predispose posttraumatic growth - perhaps as future research will reveal.
Finally, you might be reading this and thinking "But I have Centred as a weakness, what should I do?" If this is the case, find the essence of what enables Centred, and see what you can do to develop that essence. As suggested at several points above, for me, the defining characteristic of Centred is the perspective that one takes. Take perspective, see things in their bigger existential context, and you too might be helped to realise that "This, too, shall pass."
With best wishes,
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