Resilience is found in a middle ground where you neither drown in emotions nor avoid them altogether.
Typically, when it comes to the landscape of our emotions, we find two ways of traveling that lie on two opposite ends of a spectrum.
Metaphorically, one is the ‘Artist’s Way’. The other one is the ‘Jester’s Way’.
A variety of factors, from our innate temperament to our upbringing to cultural influences, affect our emotional tendencies, and what we do when an emotional crisis hits us. Resilience is found in a middle ground where you neither drown in emotions nor avoid them altogether.
People who adopt the Jester’s way usually also embody the archetype of a blissful child.
You are generally exuberant, enthusiastic, cheerful, and optimistic. Your vitality livens up any room you enter. You do not take yourself too seriously and live in the present moment. People learn how to thoroughly enjoy the wonders of life by being with you. Logic is your friend, and you are an avid student of life. You are rational and even-tempered when it comes to solving life’s problems. You have the gifts of spontaneity, playfulness, joy, and productivity.
The shadow side of being a Jester, however, is that you have a tendency to flee from your innermost self. When unpleasant feelings approach, you either run away or numb yourself. You may distract yourself with substances, activities, or work. You always know how to keep your mind busy and occupied with exciting plans and hope for the future.
By doing this, you run the risk of remaining stuck in an Eternal Child mode. Since you tend to deny and push away negative feelings, you eventually lose touch with your instinct and inner wisdom. As a result, you may find yourself inept in dealing with the fundamentals of life— you become overwhelmed with the landscape of sorrow when a crisis hits.
Being an Artists’s type, you have the gift of emotional honesty. More than most around you, you are incredibly in touch with your inner world. You own all your feelings intimately, and you do not dilute them. Even when they are painful and challenging, you do not rationalize or intellectualize them away. Instead, you endure the more painful aspect of life with quiet strength.
Being deeply reflective, you can also sense what others feel and create arts that resonate with many. Being able to withstand your emotional pain allows you to be with others’ hurt without shying away. That makes you the most sensitive, empathic, and compassionate friend. At your best, you are both vulnerable and strong.
The shadow side of being an Artist is that you tend to drown in melancholy. You become overly identified with the archetype of an Orphan and disown your power in life. Instead of reaping all that life has to offer, you are plagued with deep shame and self-hatred. You ruminate in the past, feel hopeless about the future, break down again and again, and fatigue your system so much that life ceases to feel meaningful.
Of course, none of us only do one thing, but we are all born with an innate temperament that swings us towards one direction, often reinforced by our upbringing and what our circumstances have forced us to do.
The Artist child was left on her own a lot to deal with her distress. Without a dependable caregiver to mirror your emotions and to help you regulate, you became convinced of your eternal loneliness. As a result, you turned inward and created a vivid imaginary world to cope.
The Jester child was never given the room to express their anger and sadness freely. When you were young, you learned that your emotions were an inconvenience to others, and you could only be loved by being a cheerful, problem-free child. From a young age, you learned to search for distractions to numb your pain.
As grown-ups, we sometimes become attracted to someone with an opposite tendency. This is because our psyche yearns to heal and reclaim its shadow. Deep down, the Jester wants to be in touch with life in its fullest sense and to embrace even the darker side of themselves. The Artist also has a longing to reclaim joy, spontaneous, playfulness, and to be free from the cage of constant self-scrutiny. If both parties are passionate about growth, they can learn much from each other.
For the Artist, growth is realizing you are not your feelings. They may be vivid and intense, but they do not always tell the truth and they never define you. For you, in contrast to most of what ‘psychotherapy wisdom’ says, distraction can be functional. Instead of ruminating, it is entirely okay to distract yourself with pleasurable activities, or to ‘sleep things off’ sometimes.
For the Jester, you grow by learning that feelings such as sadness, grief, anger, and fear are not ‘negative’, but valuable messengers from the depth of your soul. It is entirely safe to let them in. You do not have to numb yourself with substances, rush from one activity to another activity, or rely on hope and fantasy. The current, imperfect reality is perfect and waiting for you to embrace it fully. You may even make time to meditate, listen to emotive music, or indulge in nostalgia. Allowing the river of tender feelings to touch you and rest in the deep-seated knowing that you do not have to control anything in life.
To spiritually and emotionally mature is to integrate opposite sides of your psyche.
When life hits you with an unwanted surprise, you can maintain balance and move forward by learning to find that middle ground where you are not drowning, not avoiding, not numbing.
This is the definition of true resilience.
Imi Lo is a consultant and published author with extensive and international experience in mental health and psychotherapy. Her books Emotional Sensitivity and Intensity and The Gift of Intensity are available worldwide and in multiple languages. Imi has two Master’s degrees; one in Mental Health and one in Buddhist Studies. She works holistically, combining psychological insights with Eastern and Western philosophies such as Buddhism and Stoicism.