The Nature of Resilience


Our plans changed slightly tonight. The "plan" was to be in our pyjamas the whole day (mostly accomplished) and have a friend of ours come over to spend the night, enjoying leftover Christmas food, drinking some wine and having a sauna. We did just that, but my friend couldn't stay, because something quite incredible happened - they found his dog.


He has a large rescue dog that was mistreated in another country. It might be a mix, but it has a fair amount of so it looks very much like a St Bernard. Luckily. It was staying with a friend of his for a little while, but something spooked her when they were at the cottage in an unfamiliar area, and she took of into the forest, and didn't return. She has done this once before with my friend, but came back to his house a couple days later.

For a very big dog, she is more timid than a mouse, which speaks to her treatment when she was young. Essentially, she has PTSD, and at times something triggers the memory and she goes into flight mode. However, we have had some pretty cold weather here and for the first few days after she disappeared, the weather was down to -22C (-7F), and hasn't been above freezing very much since. That was almost a month ago.

While it is incredible that she survived that long in the forest, mostly based on the kindness of strangers in the area who would leave food out for her, the more amazing thing was in how she was caught. Essentially, a group of women in the community who track and trap lost dogs, have spent the last two weeks roaming the forests and then last week, setting a trap for her. It is a large game cage, baited with a piece of deer. They also had a game camera setup so that they could see if the dog had triggered the trap.

They say that usually, a dog will only ever be trapped once by this kind of trap, because it is quite traumatic to be caged like that, especially after a month out in the forest free. However, she wasn't in there long, even though she triggered the trap at 3am and my friend had her home again by 9, with her a bit thin, and with a slightly ragged tail, but overall, in great condition. She was also acting like normal, like nothing had happened.

My friend is obviously relieved, but he too found it quite incredible how this timid dog, was able to survive for a month in the forest. Not only that, he also found it amazing that there was this group of women in the community that come together in these kinds of circumstances and do so much work to return dogs to their owners. And they expect nothing in return - which is very rare these days.

But while all this is amazing to me, what It also got me thinking about was how resilience, which is such a valuable skill, can also be just nature doing its thing. Almost any other type of dog breed would have frozen to death under the same conditions, but this one managed in relative comfort. So, how much of our own resilience is nature, and how much is nurture?

A lot of people these days seemingly are struggling with mental problems, based on their experiences. We often hear about PTSD in soldiers who have seen combat, but now it is more commonly being used for people who have some kind of other trauma, from childhood, or social trauma of being teased and the like. However, what I have questioned, is whether this kind of trauma has always existed, but we are less capable and skilled at dealing with it, so the impact it has now is greater.

It is hard to say what is "adequate trauma", because to the individual it all feels serious and important. Yet to survive this world, we have to be capable of dealing with some level of hardship - we have to have some kind of resistance and resilience. If we don't build up a tolerance to hardship and stressors, it is like a person who has never eaten spicy food, biting down on a habanero chili - it is going to burn - And not in a good way.

Like my friend's dog, we are likely skilled in different ways by nature, making dealing with some aspects of life easier for some of us, than it is for others. However, unlike my friend's dog, we also have the ability to critically think and prepare ourselves, improve ourselves in ways that overcome our nature. For instance, a skilled woodsman would be able to survive in the depth of Finnish winter, unless they are unprepared. When it is -22, no one is going to last long being naked.

We are animals, but we aren't dogs. Even though the circumstances we find ourselves in might not be what we have chosen, we can choose to some degree how we predict, prepare and act. Sometimes times are good and we have a warm home with plenty of food in the fridge, sometimes, that is not the case at all. What is also good to remember is that being part of a community goes a long way to mitigating risks and providing support when we need it, but being part of a community also comes with the responsibility to add support into the community when others need it too.

I think a lot of the issues in society today is because people feel entitled to receive support, but not the obligation to provide support. It isn't about give and take, it is just take and expect others to give. It was refreshing for me to hear the stories of the trappers who took control of the rescue operation. But also of the family (Russian speakers) who put a bowl of food out for the dog, and took my friend (a stranger to them) in during the evenings for hours at a time, offering tea and conversation while they waited, hoping she would came by for a feed, as she had done on a couple other nights. For weeks.

A little of my faith in humanity has been restored.

Even though most of us are lost in the forest. Unprepared.

Taraz [ Gen1: Hive ]

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