Self-Complexity & Resilience

In my previous post I discussed some barriers to Resilience. In this post I actually want to discuss a topic that has been discussed in the research to potentially enhance, but also possibly reduce our resilience – self-complexity.

What does self-complexity mean?

Identifying with yourself, through a variety of means.

For example I am a husband, son, brother, friend, colleague, functional medicine practitioner, musician, fitness professional, meditator, cook and more.

Here is an extract from a paper that explains it well:

The concept of “self-complexity” is linked strongly to resilience and well-being. While a sense of “belonging” and community is associated with better well-being through shared experience, the ability to self-identify in a variety of ways—for example, gardener, father, mother, cyclist, traveler, music lover—is strongly correlated with emotional resilience. The occasional negative experience of one aspect of the self is balanced by the positive reinforcement created by success and community elsewhere in other arenas of experience.

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So how do you identify with yourself? And I mean really. If you were to truly take a break, step back from life, who are you? How do you identify with yourself. Can you branch out and start to connect with other parts of yourself which perhaps you hadn’t truly identified with?

Research has stated that:

Self-complexity as a cognitive buffer against stress-related illness and depression.

However not all research agrees. For instance:

There may be considerable stress associated with having to enact multiple, and potentially conflicting, self-aspects  and individuals may feel overwhelmed by the number of roles and responsibilities they are managing. Linville (1987) also suggested that maintaining many distinct self-aspects may in itself be a source of chronic, low-level stress as a result of multiple demands on time and attention. Additionally, research suggests that people seem to be less equipped to deal with stressful happenings as their self-complexity increases.

This resonates with me actually. I find it stressful when I feel I have more roles to play. I have no doubt that self-compassion, our tendency towards perfectionism and other variables can significantly influence how we respond to multiple roles and responsibilities. Perhaps there is a sweet spot we should be looking for?

I encourage you to reflect on this – how do these theories play out in your life?

A great book to read on resilience is ‘Resilient‘ by Rick Hanson. Check out my other recommends reads here.

Until next time, sending you love and peace,

Alex

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