The Olympic Games are a wonderful celebration of human endeavor and triumph. Athletes of every race, gender, nationality, sexual identity/orientation, and religion come together in the spirit of human potential and attainment in order to give their absolute best and hopefully reap the rewards of years of “blood, sweat, and tears.”

With the arrival of each Olympic Games my mind tends to turn towards many of the concepts and interventions that I know and employ from the realm of Sport Psychology. As I watch the athletes preform, I am aware of the many hours of psychological training they have received in order to be able to compete at a “world class” level. I also continue to think of ways to bring this advanced discipline to every-day folks who are competing in the “race of life.”

Therefore, in the spirit of Rio 2016, I would like to offer a few thoughts on the concept and practice of FORTITUDE.

It is true that we psychotherapists are often encouraging our patients to be softer, gentler, and more compassionate with themselves and others. We also often ask our patients to face and embrace their weaknesses and wounds as a pathway to deeper understanding, acceptance, and healing.

However, there are also times and situations in life that call for us to bolster ourselves and fight our way through with a strong sense of determination and fortitude. In these situations there may not be time nor benefit to stopping, opening, and processing in favor of a need to “gut it out” and “push it through.”

Let us call to mind Sir Winston Churchill’s adage: “When you are going through Hell, KEEP GOING!” By all means, we want to get the HELL out of there! 🙂

Now, as many of you know I am not talking about a black or white, “all or nothing” approach that calls us to be hardened and/or abrasive. I am also not advocating for a “just get over it” mentality. What I am talking about are times and situations when we may have to embrace a mindset of ardent courage and determination, and save the deeper processing for a time after the dust has settled.

Tough times demand strong people.  People of fortitude.

Consider for a moment the spirit of those who first settled in new territories. These pioneers faced incredibly difficult, life and death circumstances on an almost daily basis. They needed to dig deep and call up every ounce of fortitude they could muster, and because they did, many of us are who we are and where we are today.

I am sad to say that there seems to be an erosion of fortitude facing each subsequent generation. People are becoming much more entitled and enabled to strive less, and expect more. We can look to the misapplication and misuse of technology as a major culprit, but leaders, teachers, and healers are also responsible when we fail to teach and encourage concepts and interventions that foster grit, determination, sacrifice, and fortitude.

Therefore, I am reaching out to each of you on this hot August day in order to say that sometimes we just need to accept the pain, “suck it up,” and “drive on” with our lives. It is wonderful to know how to be flexible and gentle, but there will also be times when we need to stand strong, “find our metal,” and just “grit it out.”

Love and compassion are beautiful, and strength and resilience are noble. Let us continue to seek to be all that we are capable of being and becoming, and let us do so boldly and with FORTITUDE.

Be Well!

Dr. Mik Ludwig

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