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Playing tennis recently I had an insight which seemed relevant to some work I am currently involved with about emotional resilience.

I am fascinated by the different ways opponents manage their emotions during tennis matches. Cursing and swearing, outbursts of self-reproach, cold detachment or humour are some of the ways players deal with the tension that accompanies a desire to win. This tension also affects a player’s style of tennis during the course of a match. When a player is winning and therefore confident, the body is loose enabling a free swing and more power. When losing we tighten up, try to reduce the margin of error by playing more conservatively. If this works and you can scrap your way back into the game, all well and good, although you’ll struggle to improve your technique to a new level while constantly ‘fire fighting’. But more often than not, in desperation, players will resort to their old bad habits. Their technique is likely to fall apart and their state of mind with it. I have seen it happen and experienced it myself.


This could of course apply to almost any sport. Football commentators will point out how a team is ‘losing their shape’ when under pressure. Players lose the discipline to stick to the game plan as they lose trust in themselves and their team mates. And, of course, this applies to other situations, including work.

A literal definition of resilience is the ability of a substance or object to spring back into shape; elasticity, flexibility, pliability, suppleness, plasticity, durability’.

What I experience with clients who have come to therapy feeling burned-out and stressed is often not reflective of this definition. More likely they appearstoic, relentless, brittle and defensive. I am reminded of a metaphor I heard used in relation to business attitude, which was to approach conflict more like a judo contest than a joust. Jousting involves two people charging at each other, in full armour, one or both will be knocked to the ground or worse. In judo the contestants use each other’s energy, tune into ‘the other’ and sometimes go with the opposing force rather than against it, to disempower their opponent with skill and agility rather than brute force.

 My workshops on resilience focus on finding ways to maintain and support ourselves when external pressures are bending us out of shape. These strategies can enable us to hold perspective when a demanding job requires such intense application that our concentration and attention is narrowed and focused. They can also help to maintain boundaries to create the space to attend to one thing at a time so that a problem or challenge can broken down into achievable steps.  Most importantly, I have discovered that self-awareness at a holistic level, mind, body and spirit, enables us to better maintain the good habits, processes and structures which fall away when we are overwhelmed and under pressure.

Contact me for more information on Emotional Resilience workshops.