Vince Mercuri: The art of resilience
The renowned artist of the 1600s, Rembrandt, remains famous for capturing emotions and dramatic personal reactions of his subjects. In many of his paintings he displays light emerging from darkness, a sort of victory over the struggles and difficulties of life.
Rembrandt serves as a model of determination, courage and perseverance in dealing with the turmoil and pains of life. He experienced many struggles: the loss of three children, the death of his wife during childbirth, financial difficulties that resulted in bankruptcy and public humiliation from an illicit relationship.
The personal triumphs reflected in Rembrandt’s work demonstrate human resilience, a skill that is lacking in our culture today. Our society’s inability to cope with the normal stresses of life, as well as failure and unplanned life events, is resulting in increasing suicide rates, drug addiction, prescriptions used for anxiety, depression and sleep, family discord, and violent crime .
Resilience is not a trait that one either has or does not have. It involves thoughts, actions and behaviors that can be learned and developed. It seems to be a combination of coping mechanisms and stress-management and decision-making skills that are interrelated.
Being resilient does not mean that a person doesn’t experience difficulty, distress or failure; it is about the process of adapting well in the face of adversity.
Being resilient is an ongoing process that requires time and effort — taking steps to help navigate painful situations.
A primary factor in resilience is having caring and supportive relationships within and outside of the family. These relationships, based on mutual love and trust, provide encouragement and reassurance that enhance one’s ability to overcome trials.
Other factors include:
• The insight to manage strong feelings and impulses
• A positive view of oneself and confidence in strengths and abilities
• Skills in communicating to one’s support system
• Problem-solving skills
• The capacity to make realistic plans and take steps to carry them out
Moving toward and embracing our struggles is counterintuitive and requires intentionality and specific strategies to build a foundation that promotes personal wellness, such as:
• Recognizing that coping with the situation is possible
• Accepting that change is constant, and learning from the past
• Developing goals and working toward them by taking decisive actions
• Keeping things in perspective and maintaining a hopeful outlook
• Practicing personal wellness — healthy, enjoyable activities such as exercise and reading
• Continuing to grow — self-discovery, sense of purpose, spirituality
• Making connections and developing a support system
• Seeking professional help if problems persist and are causing difficulties in major life areas
Rembrandt had the wisdom, vision and vantage point to create priceless, enduring and reflective artistic impressions steeped in the resilience of light overcoming darkness.
Vince Mercuri, executive director of the Open Door Alcohol/Drug Treatment Center and Crisis Intervention Program in Indiana, Pa., is a member of the Valley News Dispatch Editorial Board.