Dealing with disappointment and adversity: innate or education? | Right away

Everyone is confronted with adversity in their lives. But where one of them is back up pretty quickly, the other stays in it for years. This has to do mainly with your mental resilience. A question of bad luck or luck? Or should you train?

Between April and June last year, Peter Smith, 32, lost his job, broke off his relationship and his brother and sister cut off contact with him because of a conflict. “It felt like my whole world had collapsed,” he says. Nevertheless, he is doing well. “After hitting the floor, I realized that this had created space to figure out what I really wanted.”

“It’s good to feel your sadness. You just shouldn’t stay in it.”

Saskia Geraerts, psychologist

Smith seemed to have enough mental resilience to recover in less than a year. “Resilience is our ability to recover from negative events and stress,” says psychologist Saskia Geraerts.

Surely we will have to rely on it now, she says. “The Corona crisis makes it very likely that things will be very different from what you imagined,” she says. “For example, with your company. You can grieve about it, but it’s more convenient to respond to the new situation.”

The extent to which we are really able to do so is partly genetic. But education also plays a role. “If your parents or carers themselves were very resilient, you largely take over.”

Partially congenital

Freelance 5Rhythms dance teacher Jup Jansonius (50) recognizes this. “My father was actually quite traumatized by things he experienced in the war,” she says. “But then he tried to make the most of it.”

She has. Her mother died of COVID-19 last week and she lost half her income. Still, she didn’t sit down for a moment. “Two days after the quarantine began, I had already arranged for myself to give my lessons online.”

Fortunately, you can also strengthen your resilience as an adult. Geraerts: “Compare it to muscles. The more you train it, the stronger they become.”

“Surround yourself with people who believe in you and are optimistic about yourself. Your brain tends to copy this behavior.”

Saskia Geraerts, psychologist

Incidentally, this only applies if you really decide to see things differently. “All my sales have been lost due to the Corona crisis,” Geraerts cites as an example. “I can mourn for a long time or see it as an opportunity to finally experiment with online courses.”

That doesn’t mean you have to push your emotions away. “It’s good to feel your sadness,” Geraerts says. “You just shouldn’t stay in it.”

Stimulating environment

According to Geraerts, a stimulating environment is essential when exercising your resilience. “Surround yourself with people who believe in you and are optimistic about yourself. Your brain tends to copy the behavior of the people you’re dealing with.”

A lot of outdoor air can also help. “When you’re out, happiness hormones are produced as endorphins. That makes them look at things from the positive side earlier.” And that is so pleasant, jansonius also experiences. “For example, I enjoy the peace and quiet in my hometown of Amsterdam. I really experience this as a gift.”