Building Anti-Resilience.


“…humans can train their brains to build and strengthen different connections that don’t reinforce the fear circuit. Over time, if people use this new pathway enough, it can become the new response to stress.”

I find it interesting that the article failed to mention the social costs of embracing that kind of behaviour.

People who have been in a position where they just couldn’t afford to crumble under stress often learn that panicking takes up too much valuable mental circuitry. They learn to keep their heads in check because that is the only way to keep making rational, sensible, GOOD decisions – which, when mistakes can cost you a lot, is not an optional extra. For me, that means applying the risk assessment and management techniques that I learnt through hitchhiking and work to everyday life. Other people do it differently, but the one thing we all seem to have in common is that we have learnt emotional self-control under pressure. It’s not that I don’t care about my feelings, but that I know that I can’t allow them to lead me around by the nose, because it may make me act stupid. I cannot begin to express how utterly unpopular this kind of attitude seems to be these days – not only passé, but actually treated as if it was abominable by a notable proportion of the population.

Social media gives us plenty of opportunities to watch popular behaviour in response to significant events. As soon as an event breaks on the “news”, it’s now popular to launch into an emotional response about it. Do not wait to find out more information about it – what are the details? where does the blame sit? did it even actually happen? The popular response is to go right on ahead and emote wildly. Choose a side and feel as hard as you can! The other side will obviously attack you, but you’ll be in good company. If you do not choose a side, do not join in with the emoting, you will be attacked by absolutely everybody. How can you not care? Have you no feelings, or no morals?

It seems to me that our society now revels in emotional responses for their own sake. It doesn’t matter if they are valid, or useful. It just matters that we have them and display them as hard as we can. With enough repetition, this anti-resilient behaviour can become our go-to response in times of stress.

As our scientists discover more and more about the mechanisms of resilience, our society renders them not only unpopular, but even abominable. The problem is that, as the article mention, “It doesn’t take a predator to trigger a stress response in modern humans. Some research shows that even feelings of social pain–like rejection and loneliness–zoom along the same neural pathways as fear.” So we have created a catch-22: we’re punishing efforts at building and maintaining resilience in a way that requires a lot of resilience to overcome.


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