Work to increase emotional resiliency
March 30, 2011
FORT BENNING, Ga. - Resiliency. The word has crept its way into our military vocabulary and everyone is using it, from top Army leadership to the squad leader. There are five areas where resiliency applies - family, social, physical, spiritual and emotional. All of this falls under the Comprehensive Soldier Fitness program.
So what is emotional resiliency'
Our emotions serve to coordinate our responses to events by bringing together cognitive, behavioral and biological resources to help us control and understand these events. Our personal, cultural, and inherited histories often direct our emotions. All of this happens multiple times a day, consciously or subconsciously, and if all things are perfect, these responses smooth our way through our daily life.
Psychologists have categorized our emotions into two types, positive and negative. Examples of negative emotions are apathy, hostility, regret, blame, fear, hatred, etc. Examples of positive emotions are gratitude, empathy, pride, laughter, curiosity, enthusiasm, interest, etc.
We may think that the way to go is to lose all our negative emotions and keep all of our positive ones. But that's wrong. We need both our negative and positive emotions to survive and navigate through life. Negative emotions can indicate areas in our life that we need to deal with or process, while positive emotions can indicate areas in our lives that we are comfortable in and want to move towards. The trick for emotional resiliency and fitness is to find the balance between positive and negative emotions.
Psychologists have come up with a positive-to-negative (emotion) ratio of 3-to-1, which indicates a healthy emotional balance. A minimum 3:1 PNR seems to give individuals a better base for problem solving, faster healing of wounds, a greater meaning to their personal life, and the ability to see opportunity in bad situations. All this spells resiliency.
You can have too many positive emotions. A PNR greater than 12:1 can be an indicator of emotional problems. But less than that is very healthy. Some data suggests that couples with a PNR of 5:1 are unlikely to get a divorce and that children thrive in a PNR environment of 5:1 or higher. High performance teams often have a PNR of 6:1. This means that positive to negative comments about the team between members and by non-members are about 6-to-1. Their performance grows in such an environment.
These concepts have tremendous implications for us as a military. The way to increase emotional resilience is to reduce the duration and frequency of our negative emotions and increase the same for positive ones. If we learn to reduce our negative emotions and self-generate our positive ones, we will be able - at work and at home - to bend without breaking and rebound from the emotional adversity a military life is filled with.
We can reduce the negative emotions we have by challenging our "dark side" when it appears. Argue with your negative thinking by challenging it with reality checks. Put the negative emotion in a positive space by walking, listening to music or talking to someone you care about. My grandmother use to say that when she felt bad she would iron clothes to break the downward spiral of negativity. Find what works for you and use it.
Our positive emotions are increased when we reconnect with nature and people we care about or when we perform random acts of kindness, follow our passions and count our blessings.
The implications and effects of increasing our emotional resiliency would be felt across the Army. Imagine how the command climate in units would change if the units consistently earned PNR of 3:1 or higher from leadership. Our entire Army culture would be transformed into a healthy emotionally resilient environment.
The challenge is that we need to take those lessons learned about emotional resiliency from good units we have been in and spread them Armywide, into our personal lives and to other Soldiers.
We can do this, because we are Soldiers and we always meet the challenge.