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Resilience: Why I know my stuff (or don’t…)

Dr. Helen Johnson

15 Feb 2022

Let’s just start with a disclaimer right here, which is that I do not think that pure ‘experience’ means much when...

Let’s just start with a disclaimer right here, which is that I do not think that pure ‘experience’ means much when it comes to helping people with stuff… I actually think that all the fluffy, hard to measure stuff like ‘attitude’, ‘warmth’, ‘insight’, and ‘sense of humour’ are what work to help people with most things…. (Experience does count to an extent but can often be overvalued). HOWEVER, I am also aware that I very rarely share the ‘things that happened to me’ stuff.

I’ll tell you why:

  1. It would possibly be quite boring and whiney

  2. I am British and we don’t like to be dramatic about things (see number 1)

  3. It might sound made up because half of it is ridiculous.

Buuuuuut, if I expect my clients to come to me and feel vulnerable then I guess you might also like to know about how come I actually do know what I’m talking about from a personal perspective when I talk about resilience and change and connection to the self…

So here goes…

Grief and loss

I’m not frightened of it. I had a client recently come to me and say ‘I need to talk about death – my death – and I know you can handle it’, because I CAN. I lost my mum when I was 23. She died in an accident (a bollard from a boat came off the boat and hit her in the head). Traumatic, life changing stuff. I was living with an awareness of death when other people were busy getting drunk and pulling* each other. I didn’t opt out of these things –I just did them with the death thing hanging about too (*I don’t know the modern word for pulling!).

I get it. I get all the stuff you don’t say out loud. I also get that some other losses can feel like grief too – they might not last as long, but at first they feel just the same. Loss. I know it’s contours.


I have been impacted by trauma all my life – whether my own or someone else’s. I might not have consciously understood it, yet it impacted me in subtle ways. I have seen what trauma does to people AND how other people’s trauma can result in all sorts of behaviours ourselves – rescuing, avoidance, endlessly searching for stimulation to counterbalance it… I can’t talk about these things in detail because they are not my stories to tell BUT what I can tell you is two things I have learned:

1. people impacted by trauma are astounding in their survival capacities, and

2. trauma is not just the big dramatic parts, it’s also all the stealthy ways it creeps into our behaviours, thoughts, and feelings.

Some of the work I do is unravelling the negatives while building on the resilience.

Narcissists and other destroyers


This is the hardest one to talk about for me because there is a part of me that believes that we should only focus on how we show up to relationships – whether in friendship, love, or work – and that when we talk about ‘them’ (i.e. not our own part in it) then it can easily start slipping into victim mentality. Full disclosure – my ego LOVES being in victim mentality. It’s so fun… the drama, the excitement, the exquisite suffering, the fact that it is all someone’s else’s fault (and therefore the ability to opt out and hide), yep…. My brain loves to go there (and disempower me in the process arrghghslkghslkhdfglh).

However, there is such a thing as really unhealthy behaviour from others, and I have experienced it in both love and work, so I want to tell you about it because resilience, once again, is key.

Here’s a few characteristics of narcissistic behaviours: love bombing then devaluing you, anger and hostility if you don’t massage their ego and stay in their control, incongruence between what they say and what they do, obsession with their image and approval from others (often at your expense), high levels of criticism, low tolerance for your imperfections (or exaggerating your perfection when love bombing!) and never, ever really ‘seeing’ you but instead some distorted version in their head. The key to knowing if you are in it is when you start to believe that you are ‘less than’ in some way, when you get used to feeling a sinking kind of shame… This is a TRICK coming at you from other people.

I WILL NOT ALLOW IT for my clients. It’s an ongoing journey for me to be able to build more boundaries and more power for myself and I always have one eye on the power and worthiness of my clients too…


I’ve navigated a lot of change in my life; from changing careers – moving from being a barrister to not for profits to coaching… with a lot of twists and turns in between. Moving out of serious relationships – once when it was my decision, once when it was not! Travelling, moving to different parts of the UK to live, shedding old connections, patterns, and behaviours and building new ones. Doing all sorts of new learning and growth, including a lot of personal development stuff and coaching. I also did a PhD that interrogated the emotional dynamics of change and what people need to make lasting, effective change.

I’m not all about reinventing the wheel. I’m about preserving what works and what is beautiful and can create new buds of growth… Then cleaning out the rest of the crap! I know how to help people to change AND to preserve their sense of safety and respect and love themselves while doing so. It really is an art!

So there you have it…. These are some of the things that have shaped my understanding of resilience, to help my clients and potential clients to build theirs. I’d love to know your experience and/ or understanding of resilience… come and find me on social media, in my free group Beyond the BS or sign up here if you would like to know more about my course ‘Deeper’ which covers all the tools and techniques I’ve picked up along the way (for yourself and for your clients – it’s about doing your own development and honing your coaching skills).

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