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What Do The Boston Bruins Have In Common With Copperfield?

Anyone can rise up from the ashes. Resiliency can be learned.

Do you remember the character, David Copperfield, created by Charles Dickens? In Dickens’s coming of age series, published from 1849-1850, David is the protagonist who faced a lot of adversity.

His fictional life was tragic: He was born six months after his father died; His stepfather beat him and later sent him away to boarding school where he was abused by a sadistic schoolmaster; After his mother’s death, his mean stepfather sent him to work in a warehouse, where David grew increasingly depressed…and the story goes on.

An important theme from the novel is perseverance and like Copperfield, resiliency is a trait that some people possess while others do not.

Throughout history, there have been people who persevered despite their handicaps and disabilities: Beethoven was deaf; Albert Einstein had a learning disability; James Earl Jones, the actor, used to stutter; and Franklin D. Roosevelt was paralyzed from polio. These people succeeded despite challenges and yet many others, with the same challenges sink into depression and develop low self-esteem.

Do you know the story about the great baritone, Leonard Warren, who despite ethnic and social prejudice, lack of musical training, and difficulty with reading music, became one of the world’s best opera singers? Many in his shoes might have chosen to quit because they didn’t possess his tough grit or tenacity.

Then, there’s Piotr Andreyevitch Streltzof (Father Arseny), the priest, arrested in 1933 during Bolshevik atheism and in 1939, sent to a Soviet prison camp where he remained until 1958. Despite the barbaric conditions and the extreme cold of the Russian winter, he endured sickness, abuse, cruelty, starvation and exploit, and miraculously managed to adapt, probe and transcend from the trauma he experienced, later dieing in 1973.

Disease, death, natural disasters, poverty, job loss, divorce, abuse, and crime will always be the unfortunate reality of life. After you hit middle age, you know to expect the unexpected.

So why are some people able to develop that “never say die” attitude, while others crawl under a rock and hide?

Steven Wolin, a psychiatrist and a researcher at George Washington University, wrote a book called Resilience: How Survivors of Troubled Families Keep the Past in its Place. In a 1992 interview conducted by Hara Estroff Marano, he and his co-author (also his wife) shared their knowledge on the topic.

In her article, “How to survive (practically) anything”, Marano recorded their conversation and wrote Wolf’s definition of resiliency:

“Resiliency is the capacity to rise above adversity and forge lasting strengths in the struggle. It is the means by which children of troubled families can rebound from hardship and emerge as strong and healthy adults, able to lead gratifying lives, albeit with some scars to show for their experience. Children can overcome trauma, protect themselves, grow and learn in the process.”

Resilience in the Face of Rough Times -Resilience can be learned”, is the article written by John A. Call, Ph.D. In it he reported:

“Resilience is the process by which people adapt to changes or crises, like death, tragedy, the loss of a job, or financial problems. Resilience is not a character trait - it can be learned by anyone, but learning it does require time and effort.

Several factors involved in resilience include having a loving support system, the ability to make plans and follow through with them, communication and problem-solving skills, having a positive view of yourself and your abilities, and the capability to manage your feelings and impulses. Building resilience is a different process for everyone, and what works for one person may not work for another. Each person should determine what works for them and do that.”

Another great article, “Weathering the Storm- Failure destroys some people. Others rise from the ashes, only to come back stronger. A guide to surviving tough times”, was written by Bruce Grierson. In his article, Grierson reported:

A theory is gaining momentum that looks at failure differently. Failure, it says, is at worst a mixed blessing: It hurts, but can pay off in the form of learning and growth and wisdom. Some psychologists, like the University of Virginia's Jonathan Haidt, go even further, arguing that adversity, setbacks, and even trauma may actually be necessary for people to be happy, successful, and fulfilled. "Post-traumatic growth," it's sometimes called. Its observers are building a solid foundation under the anecdotes about wildly successful people who credit their accomplishments to earlier failures that pushed them to the edge of the abyss.”

He sites J.K. Rowling to support this. Grierson goes on to say:

“Last fall, J.K. Rowling described to a Harvard grad class a perfect storm of failure—broken marriage, disapproval from her parents, poverty that bordered on homelessness—that sent her back to her first dream of writing because she had nothing left to lose. "Failure stripped away everything inessential," she said. "It taught me things about myself I could have learned no other way."

Grierson’s article includes his NINE ways to fail better list (I recommend reading his full description at NINE ways to fail better) which includes:

  1. Lighten up-Keep a sense of humor
  2. Join the club- Commiserate
  3. Feel guilt, not shame- break the cycle of learned helplessness
  4. Cultivate optimism-think more flexibly (the key to resilience)and learn to increase your array of options.
  5. Ask not what the world can do for you...- Find something meaningful to do with your life
  6. Scale down your expectations for yourself- A willingness to lower our sights when that's realistically required."
  7. Harness the Bridget Jones Effect-Keep a journal
  8. Don't blame yourself- understand that negative life circumstances are outside your control and this will make you less vulnerable and quicker to bounce back
  9. Act- “Failure is an opportunity to change course. Seize it.”

And what about those Bruins?

This week, the Boston Bruins stopped a 39 year losing streak to win the Stanley Cup. How did this team persevere? What helped them breed success?

Michael J. Formica wrote an article called “The Power of Perseverance and leaving your ego at the door-what teamwork can teach us” and he talks about living through adversity with confidence and not fear.

In his article, Michael J. Formica writes:

“When you fold more than a few obstacles into the mix, becoming disheartened seems only inevitable. But teamwork forged in adversity creates a resilience that binds a group together in a way that few other things can. It is steel that bends, but does not break. That flexibility and willingness leads to a perseverance that, in the end, can only breed success. Not unlike the little engine that could, it is the essence of being present.

Synchronized skating can be seen as something of a metaphor for the way that teams should work. Not only is there a need for cooperation, but there is a demand to dial back individual needs for the greater good. It is an entirely egalitarian experience, where the whole really is greater than the sum of it parts because the skaters do rise and can, quite literally, fall together. What if we, as individuals, were to adopt a perspective that relied more on cooperation than competition, more on trust than doubt, more on humility than ego, especially in the face of adversity and strife? It seems from that place we, too, might learn to bend without breaking, engendering a success borne of tenacity and a willingness to actually be present, adapting to our circumstances with a joyful confidence, rather than the fear of defeat.”

Confucius once said “Our greatest glory is not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall.”

There is something to be said for the elasticity of the human spirit. We can learn from the examples of others who have faced adversity and somehow rose up from the ashes.

Resiliency, at any age can be learned. We have to be willing to modify our goals, adapt to a life unplanned, and allow courage to drive us over our fear.



About the Writer

Luanne Stevenson is a writer for BrooWaha. For more information, visit the writer's website.
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2 comments on What Do The Boston Bruins Have In Common With Copperfield?

Log In To Vote   Score: 2
By Luanne Stevenson on June 20, 2011 at 05:10 pm

Thanks so much!

And I agree with you about keeping the past to the side. I'd rather look ahead so I can see where I'm going (or imagine where I'd like to see myself) and not look over my shoulder. If you look over your shoulder (cling to the past) too frequently, you will bump into more walls.

Looking ahead is a far better alternative.

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Log In To Vote   Score: 1
By Luanne Stevenson on June 22, 2011 at 04:52 pm

I love that quote! Thanks for commenting!

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