Surviving Survival

Surviving SurvivalA book came into my vision while I was on vacation and browsing in a favorite bookstore. Surviving Survival  by Laurence Gonzales, a journalist and an avid student of what makes us resilient. It is full of gripping stories of trauma events and how people move on with their lives. He mixes neurobiology and good storytelling.

One of his mantras caught my attention and I have been thinking about it with my clients.

He posits that one of the ways we survive a trauma – whether it is a diagnosis that turns your life upside down, or an attack by a crocodile is by “”See one, do one, teach one.”

This seems like a good mantra for living with a life changing illness that won’t go away. We need to learn new strategies to get through. This mantra holds some of the direction.

See one. In order to build a new life – after the diagnosis, after the surgery, after the changing body – we need to see someone who is doing this well – in our definition of well. You need to literally see someone you admire and want to emulate. If you don’t have an actual person, find a biography that inspires you – in a book or a movie. Who is living the life you want to live? What does it look like? What does the person who lives that life do every day? You begin to sculpt your life on that model. You move step by step, day by day on that path. We begin out lives imitating the human around us. We continue by consciously choosing who we want to be like.

Do one.  Gonzales’ advice here is clear and consistent: Work, work, work. It doesn’t have to be literal paid work. It does have to have a consuming and energizing rhythm. It is the consistency and rhythm that hold healing for us as we begin to recover from the ongoing shock of living with illness. We find solace in work that consumes us – and it can be as simple as knitting or grooming our animals, or finishing that novel, or training to do a race. Work, work, work. We begin to create the arc of our life through our work.

Teach one. This is the step that connects us to helping others – the final step towards resilient living. We do not stay immersed in our own survival – we find ways to reach out and teach others what we have learned. Some blog. Some volunteer. Some visit hospitals and some become big brothers or sisters. There are as many ways to teach what we have learned as there are people – but completing the circle of healing includes this sense of purpose – higher meaning and shifts you from focusing on your self to seeing others who can benefit from your wisdom.

There are many other lessons embedded in his generous research, and I recommend the book, but even without reading it you can benefit from his mantra.

See one, do one, teach one. That’s all it takes to deepen your own journey.

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