Once again as I sit down to write my retirement blog I do so under the shadow of yet another terrorist atrocity. I consider for a short while how I should respond. Should I write an angry, condemnatory blog, write a peace and love blog, not write a blog at all or simply carry on writing the kind of blog I like to write about my rather petty, in this context, challenges of being a retired person? I decided to carry on as usual and hope that in some way my blog adds a tiny drop of goodness into that currently depleted bucket. I’m writing this on Sunday morning and I’ve decided to revisit an earlier idea for these blogs. This is to take the topic of the Inner Life article in The Observer colour supplement and attempt to apply this topic to something that has relevance for the retired person.
I’ve written before that the challenge is to take whatever topic is presented in the article and adapt it, not to pick and choose only those that are immediately and obviously retirement-related. The focus of this week’s article is ‘interesting’ given the context as above of this blog. It is resilience –the capacity to carry on in the face of adversity. Appropriate in these difficult times and, in my experience, definitely relevant for the retired person. So much so that I have already written a blog some time ago about resilience in retirement. Whether there’s another blog to be written about the topic I won’t know until I get to the end of this one and if that end is significantly less than 1000 words then I’ll know the answer is no.
As is often the case, or so it seems so far, the article promises more than it delivers which makes it harder for me to write something of substance in this blog, but I press on. At the beginning of the article the sub-heading is – At the core of a happy, healthy adult is the resilience they learn as a child. Can this be taught? When I worked as an educational psychologist this was a question I was keen to answer. I believed it could and developed a training programme for use by staff in schools to support groups of pupils who seemed to lack what we called resilience (a term that ideally needs a clearer definition if it was going to be useful and this was a part of what I wrote about). The programme then described methods of teaching resilience for certain groups of pupils. This article, despite the promise, did not. It said no more than developing a resilient child was a ‘critical part of parenting’, before the child reached seven years of age. It said, it is in these first seven years that parental involvement can have the most significant effect, whatever ‘involvement’ means and whatever ‘significant effect’ means. And that was it, completely, in my opinion, ducking the question in the sub-heading about whether it could be ‘taught’ (their word not mine).
And now a confession. Although I wrote a whole training module about teaching how to develop resilience in children unsurprisingly I can’t remember what I wrote and, as I’m writing this at the Pateley cottage, nor do I have my one remaining set of training materials with me ( the rest I gave away) so I can’t check. The best I can do is to write in this blog what I can remember about how children can be taught to develop resilience and then consider whether these areas can help a retired person (rather like myself) to maintain a significant degree of resilience if they had it before they retired or start from scratch if they feel it was a quality that was lacking at the point they retired.
The three areas I remember, although not in any great detail, that would help children develop resilience, in brief, are good quality thinking (as this relates in Cognitive Behavioural Therapy to the difference between faulty or unhealthy thinking sometimes called rational and irrational beliefs), emotional intelligence (in the broadest sense of this term not the one that has become so popular of late), simply an intelligent understanding of the nature / name of our emotions and their impact on our thoughts and behaviour and finally good social skills which enable us to put in place for ourselves a supportive social network which facilitates (through listening, questioning and perhaps advice giving) the kind of understanding of our thinking patterns, emotional responses and behavioural patterns that go a very long way to determining our resilience in the face of the kind of challenges that retirement inevitably brings. The point being that all of the above ‘skills’ can be taught / developed by the retired person.
Some brief examples of the above. Faulty thinking – I’m getting too old to be taking on any new learning / Everybody else I know is having a better retirement than me / Getting old is no fun at all / The world is a very bad place for old people. Clear thinking, developed either by oneself or with a good support person / network, amateur or professional, will help us replace these negative thoughts with positive, protective and hence resilience-developing thinking. Emotional intelligence – I just feel down and I don’t know why. I’m angry / anxious / confused / sad / depressed / afraid / nervous. Being intelligent about our emotions particularly negative / destructive ones will help us understand the nature or source and the impact of these emotions on both our thinking and our behaviour. With understanding comes resilience, i.e. the power to resist and redefine these negative emotions.
I hope that this blog might offer a degree of guidance for those of us who are retired about the relevance of resilience for a retired person and how they might usefully consider how they can become more resilient in the face of those increasing challenges that, for many of us, go hand in hand with being retired. I make no apologies for the fact that this ‘advice’ is undoubtedly incomplete but it is the best I can do without returning to past research archives and that’s not what this blog is about. I write what comes into my head and what’s left of my memory and hope that it simulates other retired people out there to think positively or as positively as is reasonably possible, about their own retirement. This positive, but also clear-sighted / intelligent, thinking about our retirement years goes hand in glove with increasing resilience. And I’m afraid this is where I must leave the topic for now.
PS. reading this through I think there’s yet another blog to be written on resilience and retirement. Hopefully I will be motivated to write it soon.