We are real Bear Grylls fans in our house, particularly our youngest who couldn’t think of anything better then being dropped out of a helicopter over a murky lake in the middle of the jungle, eating insects and drinking his own wee! Of course if it actually came to that I think he might be a little less enthusiastic. We’ve all been watching the recent Mission Survive programme where Bear took a number of celebrities into the thick, dangerous jungle of Costa Rica and they had to overcome all kinds of treacherous conditions – along with overcoming their own issues around lack of sleep, little food and all kinds of assaults on the senses.
In one of the shows Bear made the following statement that has stuck with me. He was talking about all the different types of strengths we need to survive such harsh conditions. “You need physical strength, emotional strength and relational strength, in order to survive”. This really resonated with me particularly when I think about parenting, as an adopter but also any kind of parenting, as well as those trying to work with vulnerable children to make a difference in their lives. You very often need the physical strength to keep going when the response you get may be frustration, aggression, violence or just plain apathy and disregard. You very much need the emotional strength to cope with that too – along with the resilience to bounce back and not take things personally.
The category that interested me the most though was the relational strength. The other two we talk about often in this world of working or living with vulnerable children, but the other not so much. But how important is it to have the relational skills to connect in the right way with people around us? As in the jungle the survival of the individuals relies very much on the team. If the fire lighting person cannot light the fire then all suffer, if the shelter making person loses the equipment to build the shelter along the way then everyone suffers, if the person foraging for the food actually picks up the poisonous berries then all suffer – and it is about survival!
Sometimes it can feel as drastic as that for us. That we are at the end of ourselves – of our own strength, whether physically, emotionally or relationally and the slightest thing that happens could break us. I have a friend at the moment – a fellow adopter – who is at that stage and it’s so hard to watch, I have to say I’ve felt some of this pressure the last few weeks too. Some of the strength we need we have to work on ourselves. I can’t sit next to a fit healthy person and hope that their health will rub off on me – it won’t. I have to eat well, sleep well and do exercise myself to stay healthy. In some ways the same can be said of our emotional health – there’s things I can do to strengthen that muscle and also to protect myself. But the relational strength we can help each other with.
So here’s some tips on finding survival strength:
Know your limitations – on the Mission Survive show the people entering the jungle had an idea of what they might be able to endure, but actually until they were faced with the challenges they were not certain how they might respond. Sometimes we don’t know what we can take until we are tested. However, trying to understand where your vulnerabilities might be is a good place to start. Before I adopted I had done some stressful jobs (or so I thought) so I knew some things that I could handle and the things that I found difficult. Since adopting this has been tested to it’s max! I now understand more and more what I need to help me survive. Actually as I write this I’ve taken a few days away alone to write but also to rest and rebalance myself.
Work on relational skills – sometimes we use our personality traits or what we know as our limitations as an excuse to not have to work on things in our lives. I’ve heard this said and have said it myself – it’s just not me to do that or to work on an area I know irritates others. I totally believe that we should know our values and strengths and work to those things BUT not at the detriment of being a nice person. I want people to want to be around me, to have fun with me but also to know I can support them in the ways they need when the time arises. So that means I might have to work on my impatience, my disapproval of peoples differences to me and to be a kinder person to others. When you’re under pressure, like the people on Mission Survive, all those irritations and lack of self-control issues you might have will come out. There are still areas in my personality and temperament that I need to work on in order to build strong relational strength with those around me – how about you?
Look up and around you – when we are stressed we tend to look down and inside. Our own problems become huge and I do know there’s a time to pull back and take a Me Holiday as Sally Donovan talks about on her blog. BUT when you’re in a team like on Mission Survive the more you think about just yourself and not the team the more everyone suffers. I know this to be true in my own life. I have a partner and I have children, I have other family members and I have friends. They are all important to me and my survival relies on them just as theirs on me. So take a moment to look up and around you – how can you find strength in each other whether physically, emotionally or relationally? What ways can you build each other up in these things so that everyone survives?