When some people encounter a daunting challenge–from a lost job, to divorce, to a sudden health crisis–they shrink into fear, self-doubt, or other diminishing emotions and seek to avoid whatever it is that appears threatening. Others brilliantly rise to meet the challenge and, in the process, become bigger and more interesting human beings.

We all, of course, want to be the people who rise to a challenge but we don’t always succeed. Many of us don’t even know what the secret of that kind of success is. At least, it appears that I don’t, as I’ve spent the better part of my life curious about what it is that enables everyday people to respond to all kinds of situations with extraordinary courage.

Most of what I’ve learned has come directly from ordinary human beings living their lives, not thinking about how they could conjure the courage to rise to a situation but simply doing it. Far less often have I found things in books or articles that teach me what I want to know.

But here is an exception: an article by Michael Bond, entitled “The Secrets of Extraordinary Survivors”,  that appeared on the BBC this past week. Bond touches on several important elements, including the familiar ones, such as:

  • Telling your story,
  • Connecting with people,
  • Finding meaning, and
  • Developing a spiritual life.

The one that I found most striking, however, came from psychiatrist Metin Basoglu, former head of trauma studies at the Institute of Psychiatry at King’s College London, who is the co-director of The Center for Behaviour Research and Therapy, which attempts to make effective therapy available to victims in the developing world who would otherwise receive no help.

“The critical recovery process is exposure,” says Basoglu. “You confront fear and you learn to deal with it. You learn to exercise control over it, instead of letting it control you.” And once people have squared up to their fears, he adds, the changes can be astonishing.

Check out the article here.

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