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Emotional Endurance w/o Systems Change is B.S.

August 13, 2022

Friends, 

Can we talk a bit about emotional endurance? I’ve heard this phrase popping up lately as a remedy for pandemic fatigue. I’m down with relying on a phrase to create meaning. Words help us make sense. People use words and create phrases as a way to construct meaning during times that feel out of balance, trying, or hopeless. Language is our way of finding a common understanding or agreement to how we’re going to talk about something. But, if we’re using language and words as a tool, let’s be clear about what we mean. For instance, you know what English word has over 645 definitions? 

I’ll wait…

It has three letters.

Starts with “R”

R _ _ 

Run. 

I’ll run bath water.
I’ll run to the store.
Did you run up a bill?
Does your nose run?
I run up hills.

Ok, you get what I’m saying. So, if we’re going to say we need to build or create or maintain “emotional endurance” what does that mean? The ability to have feelings for a long time? The ability to tolerate feelings? Having grit to bear emotions over time? Endure – to undergo, to tolerate, to stomach, to bear…I mean really, having endurance could mean so many things! If I tell you to stomach something vs. tolerate vs. undergo – it determines whether or you not you feel like you can show up for it. And then throw in feelings??? Who wants to tolerate or endure feelings, especially negative or hard feelings? Happy, sunny, loving feelings – I’ll endure those all day. 

What I really think people mean when they say we need “emotional endurance” is that we need to build muscle in order to continue to undergo the stress and strain of pandemic life. And that, over time, if we adapt, we will have the stamina to endure these continued ups and downs. But here’s where I have a problem: Time after time, we continue to ask individuals to ENDURE without fixing systems! AND, we continue to place this burden on individuals instead of leaning on relationships! 

Folks – no human was meant to endure prolonged stress and continue to adapt. It FRAZZLES our nervous system. Predictable, tolerable stress creates resilience, but prolonged, erratic stress creates overwhelm, which leads to burnout. So, if we’re going to ask people to continue to build emotional endurance despite no systemic change and no recognition that we DO BETTER in relationships of trust and support…I cannot support this mentality. 

The only way to heal and learn from what we’ve “endured” over the last many months is to begin to address systemic harm and build supportive relationships where it’s ok to be human instead of heroes. You know where you’re going to learn more about responding to trauma and creating resilience?

On my new podcast – join us this Wednesday – the episode with Dr. Ken Ginsburg, pediatrician, drops this week! Oh, and if you are interested in joining my membership community for medical providers, check it out here!

OK, gotta run. 

See you soon,

Dr. Amy

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