Tag Archives: emotion

Resilience and the importance of Role Models in providing road maps

My last post briefly looked at how older people – I like the term ‘elders’ rather than the usual descriptor ‘the elderly – are not simply a passive risk group but should be viewed and treated as active agents and potential assets in Emergency Preparedness. I mentioned how their decades-long experiences can contribute to being able to find and build on optimism and today I’d like to expand on this by looking at the importance of role models in resilience. Traditionally, role models tend to be seen as older people one looks up (often relatives) to but of course this is only a limited view. Nowadays it is easier than ever to find positive role models of all ages and backgrounds across a many diverse areas.

Everybody needs resilient, positive role models – not just children

Last January when this blog started, I introduced you to Emmy Werner and Ruth Smith who ran one of the first longitudinal resilience studies (see the Resilience – Nature or Nurture post ). They reported what has been confirmed many times since:

resilient individuals have role models whose beliefs, attitudes and behaviours inspire them

Research in teens repeatedly shows that those with role models have a better attitude towards school, better grades and attendance, greater maturity and better mental health with less depression and anxiety (Southwick et al, 2006) . Surely it’s no stretch to claim the same is true for adults of all ages. From where I stand, I see it as only natural that we can all benefit from encouragement from mentors and role models whose behaviour – words and action – motivate and inspire us to continue to learn, adapt and grow. Where children initially learn right and wrong as a foundations of morality, as teens and adults we continue to hone our skills to control impulses, delay gratification and find as well as create healing for ourselves and others.

Your Role Models – who inspires you and why?

some role modelsHow about you? Where do you draw your role models from?

You’ll laugh when I tell you that, personally, I can think back to a long string of personal heroes beginning with – unsurprisingly for my era – Wonder Woman. Yes – ‘oh dear’ indeed! I am no closer to being like her now than back then nor would I ever want to be – and not simply because of  body image and wardrobe issues.

However, Wonder Woman along with many of my real world heroes (i.e. in no particular order Henry Dunant, Aung Sang Suu Kyi, Shunmyo Masuno, May Sarton, Malala Yousafzai) continue to inspire me to connect, never lose interest, courage and the ability to question but also accept.

Role Models do not have to be older, wiser or perfect

Role models do not have to be perfect – actually quite the opposite holds, I believe. Everyone has their own unique strengths and weaknesses which, unlike flawless fiction super heroes, make them authentic and human and therefore much more valuable in that they are real and accessible. Have you heard of the Well Child Awards and the Pride of Britain Awards? Well, you probably have but for me, as a Swiss, this was certainly new. What a brilliant way to honour and highlight how everyday people do astonishing deeds to inspire us all, irrespective of age or background.

How role modelling works – more than just imitation

Imagination and imitation are powerful forms of learning and shape human behaviour. Throughout our lives we learn by imitating the patterns of thought and behaviour of those around us. Often we are completely unaware that we are doing such observational learning. It is not taught. Rather we simply pick it up merely by being exposed to others and the need to belong and fit in.

Matters are more complex, however, for example Bandura’s social learning theory (1977, 1986) holds that modelling involves more than simply mimicry, imitation or observational learning. He suggested that each person is able to integrate thoughts, values, behaviours and emotional reactions that resemble those of a role model but that it could be adapted to fit the particular personality and circumstances of the learner. Suppose, for example, that you know someone who always seems to handle complex and stressful situations with relative ease. You admire this resilient person and wonder how she or he does it. You intentionally begin to observe their behaviour over time and may notice patterns:

  • actively reaching out to others for help, support and assistance
  • adjusting personal pace to build in additional rest and recharge periods
  • upping diet with extra nutrition and taking additional exercise

This observed pattern you can now turn into a rule or model that you can modify for yourself for use during a variety of stressful situations. Doing so and keeping sensitive to what works best for you, you will develop and enhance your own personal resilience.

 What are the most effective ways of learning from Role Models?

Most people benefit from role models without being fully aware of the processes involved. You don’t need to make it into a science yourself but I believe that by taking a more active and conscious role will have benefits in that you learn quicker, can adapt and modify faster to what works best for you.

Like any new skill you start, begin by breaking it into smaller, more manageable chunks until you become better and more fluid at it:

  • observe the role model behaviour in a variety of settings over time
  • practise yourself in between observations for example by first imagining you possess a desired behaviour, attitude and personality style and then by role play (real life enactment is eventually required for successful imitation)
  • get feedback from someone you trust and that has a good eye. Such a person can point out similarities and differences between your behaviour and the behaviour you are attempting to model and may provide suggestion
  • patience! Don’t give up. Changing your behaviour to fall in line with what you consciously desire rather being driven on automatic takes perseverance

That it’s worth the effort is clear for you will gain immensely in realistic self-assurance and suffer considerably less from the inevitable anxieties that life throws us all.

Curiosity is key – acts of observing, listening, questioning, wondering and modelling. When you stay curious with an open mind and heart about your and other people’s worlds and our responses to shared experiences, then we can truly become role models for each another, building understanding and resilience for all of us.

Wishing you resilience building week full of illuminating observations.


thank you for sharing and helping raise awareness for Emergency Preparedness and Resilience!



  • -Southwick, S.M., Morgan, C.A., Vythilingam, M. & Charney, D. S. (2006). Mentors enhance resilience in at-risk children and adolescents. Psychoanalytic Inquiry, 26 (4), 577-584.
  • Bandura, A. (1977) Social learning theory. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall
  • Bandura, A. (1986) Social foundations of thought and action: a social cognitive theory. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall

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Resilience – Understanding Fear

TED recently published a captivating talk by (now retired) astronaut Chris Hadfield. You might remember him from his unforgettable “Space Oddity” with over 21 million views on You Tube. He describes in vivid detail how his extensive training helped him cope with the complexity, sheer pressure as well as dangerous and terrifying situations not only during his space missions but also in life.

This high-flying astronaut’s totally down-to-earth approach made me realize what a brilliant example Chris makes for Resilience. It got me thinking just how immensely powerful training is – physical as well as mental – in taking control of what otherwise are ‘hard-wired’ biological responses (fight, flight, freeze).

What is fear?

I think we can agree that it is a powerful emotional force that spans a particularly unpleasant inner spectrum ranging from the first stirrings of unease or apprehension to eventually blind terror all accompanied by a large range of physical symptoms. Taking a temperature reading along any imaginary fear barometer for both physical and mental states is a highly subjective affair and you can find lots of free resources on the web if you wish to delve into this further. More importantly is the realization that fear is one giant paradox for it is both real and fantasy – but with very real consequences.

Fear – what Fear? …. a Quizz

You might recognize the following quotes. Go ahead and have a bit of fun: treat them like a quiz. The footnotes will tell you if you got them right.

Fear is not real, it’s a product of the thoughts you create. Do not misunderstand me. Danger is very real. But fear is a choice.” 1

I must not fear. Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear. I will permit it to pass over me and through me. And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path. Where the fear has gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain.” 2

Mindfulness is running straight into reality. It does not insulate you from the pain of life – rather, it allows you to delve so deep into life that you pierce the pain barrier and go beyond suffering.” 3

So, what do you think?

Although these quotes come from three very different corners of reality past and present I think they all capture the fear paradox really well.
One further point is also very important I think, especially with the general emphasis tending to value conquering or transcending fear – and that is the understanding and embracing that fear is only human.

Feeling Fear is only Human – Not a Sign of Weakness

Paul KleeFeeling fear is inevitable.

Everybody will feel aspects of the fear spectrum at some time. Fears are thoroughly human emotions. You notice that I’m purposefully using the plural here – for being able to differentiate where on the ‘barometer’ you are when and for how long with what kind of fear is the very first step in taking control.

Get to know your fears and name them.

Fear is normal – the Difference between Fear and Panic is Control

If you learn to control apprehensions and fears you can turn them into assets, treat them like a guide that can help you focus. Fears are normal.

The difference between fear and panic is control.

Fear does not have to shut you down. It can wake you up.

Fear can guide you because you can learn to recognize and respect it. Through training you acquire expertise that will kick in for you should things go wrong where fear suddenly might explodes onto the scene. There might even be an app for that 😉

But how do I go about learning to control fear?

Sure, this is all very well I hear you say, but what kind of training? I can’t train for everything. Besides, my life is kind of just ‘normal’ so what’s the point?

I don’t want to sound like a certain ad but “every little helps” really does apply here – especially if you do a little bit a lot of times. And forming a new habit so to speak does not have to be boring.

Learning to Control Fear is simply Amazing

Go play, have fun – in the real world out there and away from virtual reality screens at least 90% of the time. Try completely new activities – and get good at them. Any new skill or trick you add to your toolbox will come in handy at some time in some way.

Then, at the end of your fun activity where you’ve focused both your mental and physical resources, relax. Well, not quite that fast for here lies another paradox. Relax does not simply mean letting go, tune out or turn off. That would be closer to sleep. No,

I mean learn to relax as in mindfulness training and meditation – which is really just another activity only of a very different nature, even if it sounds a bit alien at first. There are many different approaches out there and so you’re bound to find one that’s just right for you. In the end it will help you further hone your mental focus and resources – which, naturally, adds greatly to your personal resilience; for “normal” life has it’s way of suddenly and quite unexpectedly ceasing to be simply be just “normal” – whatever that means to you now that you’re beginning to be in charge of your fears.


Thank you for sharing, raising awareness for Emergency Preparedness.

For more EVAQ8 blog simply use the right hand navigation. For emergency kits and practical resources use the top navigation. For FREE resources head over to our Preparedness Hub and find out why we use humour. If you like this post, please share it to help raise awareness for Emergency and Disaster Preparedness. Thank you!

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  • 1 Will Smith in the 2013 Movie ‘After Earth
  • 2 Frank Herbert, Dune (1965)
  • 3 Banthe H. Gunaranta, Buddhist Monk (year unknown)
  • also see:


Optimism and Resilience: how to achieve Realistic Confidence in the face of Crisis

updated June 2017

We’ve just made our own blog a lot more ‘resilient’ by switching to WordPress hence the delay in putting new articles up. Sorry, but I’m sure you understand and thanks for coming back to share with me more on the topic.

In my last post I wrote about the importance of open public discussions about climate change. Importantly, how our own strong emotions, including pain and fear affect what and how we talk to each another. Such discussions are initially quite polarised or ‘raw’ in the sense that they reflect strong feelings that need to be witnessed in the right context without being misunderstood. Those that put a positive spin on their comments trying to lift the paralyzing gloom and doom are often yelled down by accusations of being blind or worse, being idiots, lazy and apathetic. This of course does not help either.

Finding the right kind of optimism is the real challenge here. Optimism is not just one thing. It is complex and means different things to different people. Optimism is interesting because it comes in different flavours and shades. Contrary to popular belief, ‘resilient’ optimists do not view the world simply through rose-tinted-glasses. Resilient optimists acquire a certain kind or flavour of ‘realistic optimism’ that is just right – the ‘magic’ Goldilocks principle: just right.

To successfully deal with any crisis, realistic optimism serves as the fuel that ignites resilience, providing the very energy so sorely needed to deal with it all, physically, mentally and emotionally. Crises are long and difficult processes and something we all have to learn to cope with at some point in our lives – especially now as we are waking up to an ever more challenging world; one, where we must prepare for a world that’s more than 2° C warmer.

So, how can we become resilient optimists?

First, we need to know the difference. Psychologist Sandra Schneiderexplains that blind optimism is different from realistic optimism in that the blind variety focuses on simply feeling good in the now while the realistic approach takes a wider view with a problem solving stance which goes on to improving our chances to negotiate our changing environments successfully. Does that mean both are mutually exclusive, we have to choose between realist or optimist? Not necessarily – the good news is that there is a way of having both! Desired beliefs are a tremendous force we can harness despite them being a form of self-deception so long as we don’t get lost or distracted by them and have timely, appropriate reality checks in place – which is of course easier said than done! What works for me might not necessarily work for you. Everyone must develop their own brand of optimism and that is hard work and requires a lot of self-reflection as well as the capacity to imagine different kinds of shared futures.

Read that last sentence again. There! That is exactly where the real power lies in my view and it is rooted in the now. Now – as in literally right now – this power is yours. Agreed, now I’m beginning to sound a bit like Yoda but I kid you not: the force really is with you! Thanks to a bunch of incredibly fortunate incidences a long time ago human brains evolved and now we have the awesome power of time travel. You have the power to imagine a better future.

So, right now: what does that mean to you? And no, I don’t mean ‘more stuff’, we’re not squirrels. What could your future really mean to you … you and your friends… you and your friends and your family? Try bigger. You and your community, village and town? Spin it along, elaborate, play with it, have some fun. How would you really like your future to be – and that of your kids. Never mind if you don’t have any right now just imagine you did (if you don’t like kids right now then… oh well, imagine that you do…)

Ok, can you see it? If you really work at it you can even touch it and smell it, really feel it but that takes some practice.

Now – slowly, be gentle. Come back to the present.

Take stock, but keep your wonderful ‘future bubble’ alive.

Now compare –  qualitatively compare: where do you stand now, what resources and abilities do you actually have – you probably have a lot more than you at first can think of so keep a running list. What can you acquire? Not all in one go of course but you can work at it every day. Little by little.

Just keep that future alive and bright in your mind and continue moving towards it. And since you cannot do it all alone you’ll have to count on your friends, family and neighbours – starting with your next-door neighbour to eventually widen and broaden your reach across all your communities. Now for just one minute, imagine we would be all doing that, most of the time in a kind and understanding way creating a shared resilient future for all “just right”. Source https://www.impsandmonsters.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/10/Just-Right_800.jpg Wishing you an imaginative and inspiring weekend, and apologies if the above feels a bit like a roller-coast ride; as a mental agility exercise it was meant to be and hopefully also entertaining, thought- and action provoking. Monika thank you for sharing, raising awareness for Emergency Preparedness!

For more EVAQ8 blog simply use the right hand navigation. For emergency kits and practical resources use the top navigation. For FREE resources head over to our Preparedness Hub and find out why we use humour. If you like this post, please share it to help raise awareness for Emergency and Disaster Preparedness. Thank you!

Find EVAQ8 on social media, like and follow us!

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