Dealing with stress and becoming aware of opportunities where others only see problems

08.05.2020

Chaos, uncertainty, instability, unforeseen events, hyperconnection, loneliness, anxiety ... Our society could be defined by these and many other adjectives that have taken center stage in times of crisis. In the midst of this scenario, there is a survival strategy: learning to be anti-fragile, an interesting resource that Lebanese essayist Nassim Nicholas Taleb introduced in 2012.

Surviving and flourishing in such a changing and challenging scenario is complicated to say the least. However, there are not only those who get it, there are people who even get to make the most of those troubled times.

Furthermore, when defining this term, it is common to use the metaphor of the hydra, that mythical snake that was almost impossible to destroy. When a head was cut off, two more emerged from that wound.

This image somehow outlines those personalities who manage to react despite stress, pain and difficulties.

Obviously, it is not easy to take this vital approach. It is necessary to go through a stage of greater weakness in which to become aware of what a defeat is, which supposes a fall and hit bottom for a time.

Only when we go through the learning of adversity, we manage to heal these psychological fractures by coating them with a new material, one as strong as graphene to become, according to Taleb, "anti-brittle".

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Learning to be antifragile: what is it about?

It was in 2007 when Nassim Taleb published the book The Black Swan to tell us about those unexpected and unpredictable events that occasionally occur in our world. Somehow, this financier and researcher, a mathematician from New York University, forced us to become aware that people have become accustomed to taking too much for granted, leaving little room for the chaos factor, the one that from time to time, it alters any area of ​​our reality.

A black swan is, for example, an economic or health crisis and is also a personal loss, an unexpected failure, etc.

Assuming that we can't have everything under control was undoubtedly the first lesson he gave us with his now mythical book. Now, 5 years later he surprised us with another term, another idea that came to complete the proposal beforehand.

To move around that lake of uncertain waters where from time to time a black swan is sighted, it is best to learn to be antifragile. The reason? Very simple: to manage the stress of the unforeseen, to develop a temperate, attentive and skillful approach with which to survive all chaotic situations, all demanding, unexpected and complex experiences.

You can be fragile, robust or fragile

Nassim Taleb explains to us in his essay that the human being can show three types of behaviors before any challenging event.

  • We can, for example, act by being fragile. In fact, it is a state that we have all gone through more than once and that we know perfectly. It is living with permanent and insufferable anguish. The author himself gives us the example of Damocles and that sword that was always on his head threatening to take his life. Stress experiencing the feeling that something bad is going to happen and not knowing how to react plunges us into a state of perpetual suffering.
  • It is possible to act being strong, light and robust. The example given here is that of the phoenix. Someone who is reborn after being destroyed and does so by being stronger ... But not showing greater intelligence or wisdom.
  • Finally, Nassim Taleb focuses on the importance of learning how to break the frail. From being like a hydra, someone who can cut off a head, but from that wound, two more heads will emerge. It is reacting with plenty of ingenuity in the midst of chaos and making that situation of stress or difficulty a scenario in which to come up, grow, find our power.

Is being resilient the same as being fragile?

The field of antifragility basically starts from the economic sphere. Resilience, meanwhile, from the world of physics.

Even so, these types of concepts have been projected decisively in the area of ​​psychology and, above all, in the field of personal growth. Therefore, many wonder if both ideas are not describing the same reality to us. The answer is no.

Resilience defines our ability to adapt to adverse situations, learn from them and emerge stronger. Being anti-fragile goes beyond mere adaptation to complicated, uncertain or demanding moments. It is to take advantage of them. It is to position yourself with skill, seeing in uncertainty an opportunity for growth and power.