I recently had a chance to view part of a documentary in one of my psychology classes entitled “This Emotional Life,” which originally aired on PBS. The film is a 3 part series that looks at how we can cope with emotional stressors and become more positive and resilient people. The documentary explores the stories of many people who have overcome great challenges in their life, and demonstrates how resilient we are capable of being.
For example, there was the story of Bob who became a prisoner of war after being kidnapped and held captive for 8 years in Vietnam. He was put into solitary confinement and faced brutal physical torture. During this time, he would spend hours each day envisioning the house he wanted to live in with his family, designing every last detail in his imagination. He also used a tap code to communicate with other prisoners through walls. Once he was rescued, he reunited with his family and built the house that he had spend all of those hours picturing in his head. He remained optimistic and believed he would prevail, which helped him cope with the isolation and physical pain.
Then there was Mike, who grew up with an alcoholic stepfather. He became involved with dealing and using drugs. After being arrested by police, he later got a job installing furniture, and was working in a doctor’s house when the doctor began to ask Mike about his life. They became friends and the doctor became a mentor to him. Mike is now a thoracic surgeon, and credits mentors in his life for guiding him through the tough times.