I’ve been thinking about obstacles lately and the character that is built when we manage to surpass them. Obstacles are a fact of life, there’s no shortage for sure, and I can even acknowledge that they might add a certain yin-yang aesthetic to our worldly living. At the same time I’ve also been thinking a lot about what it means to be resourced. When I bring up the term resourced in my sessions, I often get a quizzical look, like what am I talking about? There’s no denying that fate and sheer luck play a major role in the toss of the dice that determines who gets what in this world. But by being resourced, I mean any and all of the things that set one up to do well in life. Basic needs like food, water, and shelter are a given and as we all know from failure-to-thrive studies, these are not enough. I’m talking about things like a safe living environment and financial stability; emotional awareness and support; intellectual stimulation and support; creative stimulation; a social network (family, friends, community); physical well-being and the ability for medical needs to be met; utilization of effective mental health services; cultural awareness and acceptance – of self and others; healthy coping mechanisms; problem solving skills; assertive communication and an ability to self-advocate. I don’t think this list is exhaustive by any means – just a some things I’ve come up with that seem significant.
The truth is that when we don’t have a lot of resources available to us, we are faced with an uphill climb that can literally take decades to surmount. And when you don’t have certain resources, how are you supposed to know what you should be looking for in the first place?
One of the best questions I’ve learned to ask my clients in therapy sessions is “What would it have meant for you if your parents had had the resources they needed when you were growing up?” I can almost see the energetic shift sometimes when clients consider how life may have been different. It’s not about blame – there are millions of reasons that our parents may not have had access to the resources they needed. This is a generational issue – how so often struggles are passed down in a family from one generation to another. And it’s about a desire to break the cycle.
It’s here where the word privileged comes to mind – a term that I think has been tossed around more than usual lately. For me I think the term privileged most directly resonates when you consider those people who believe that they deserve their gifts more than others because they’ve earned them in some way, that they’ve worked harder or that they simply believe they are better and more worthy. It’s an undermining concept and it certainly is a privilege to put oneself up on a pedestal like that. Maybe this idea of privilege – for those who believe that they are somehow more deserving than others – is self protection for the guilt they may feel when faced with those who do not have the resources that they might otherwise take for granted. (Ok, that’s just a guess.)
Assumption is really important here too. So often suffering can come from the belief that we are alone in our experiences – that we alone don’t have resources while the rest of the world does. That’s simply not true. Like anything else, there’s always a continuum.
And on the other side – for those who are privileged to make the assumption that we all do have or somehow have easy access to these resources is a major disservice to the well-being of our society as a whole. The assumption that we all should have these resources seems to be more beneficial and something I can get behind.
Ideally we should all make the best of the resources we do have, and why wouldn’t we?
If you happen to be rich, why would you not use that? If you’re smart, then use that of course! While I 100% believe in the ability to overcome and surpass adversity, still it makes me think a lot about those who are set up to do well as opposed to those who fall through the cracks, unnoticed.
My guess is that when we think of privilege, we often make assumptions about money and power. And while I’m pretty sure most people will agree that money does offer certain advantages – perhaps most significantly the absence of financial stress – I also encourage you to consider other ways that power can be attained. Knowledge is power, we’ve heard that one before. But I’m hoping you can see that one can also find power in so many other things like emotional support and connection, creativity, healthy coping mechanisms and problem solving skills. Not everyone who has money has these things. Regularly we hear about people from low income scenarios who succeed due to the love, support and encouragement of those around them. I don’t think it’s a coincidence – they were resourced with support in ways that others often are not.
Maybe privilege is the wrong way to think about it. If basic needs of food, shelter and water are not enough for one to thrive in this world, then maybe we need to reconsider what basic needs should be. How are you resourced? What else do you need to thrive and succeed in this lifetime as opposed to simply being kept in a state of struggling to survive? The more resources we have, the more power we have. Resources beget resources when we actively use what’s available to us.
For anyone interested – I think the antidote to privilege-related guilt is to take action by fighting harder for equality. What’s scary is the thought that fear of equality may be the thing that drives people to not take action; if we are equal then I’m not special. To that I say, not to worry – everyone is special in their own way regardless of equality – there will always be plenty of character to go around.
If you’re not familiar with the ACE study, check out this video – it’s one amazing step to help tackle this very big problem, and hopefully helps in getting more people resourced: How childhood trauma affects health across a lifetime | Nadine Burke Harris
Also…I think I may have posted this link before, but still everyone should see it, so even if I have it’s worth posting again: $75,000 is the Perfect Salary for Happiness