Some would say the opposite to fragile is robustness or resilience. Nassim Taleb sees beyond this to what he refers to as antifragility.
Please handle roughly, he says, because instead of breaking or diminishing, in the state of antifragility we grow.
My friend Rebecca returned from some psychological research in Uganda amongst the women caught up in the trauma of conflict and violence experienced in that country’s recent past. The question being researched was around whether these women would benefit most from funding therapy or support to begin their own businesses. The research pointed towards the latter. Elsewhere, I’d also come upon the term post traumatic stress growth.
Whilst this subject is far too complex to explore here, there is growing recognition of people having the capacity to turn the difficult things they’ve experienced into points of growth.
When we are fragile, we react – the fight, fright, flight reaction. The worst case scenario for fragility is that we break.
When we’re robust, we respond – we choose how we will act. We are able to return to our former state following the stress.
When we are antifragile, we initiate. We know we do not have to select from the options on offer and instead can come up with a third way.
SOMETHING TO DO: If you’ve been criticised recently – perhaps at work or in your family – how have you worked through this? Have you fought back or felt bad about yourself? Have you remained quiet on the outside, taken it away, and allowed time to do its work? Or have you taken it into a process of reflection, comparing it with what you know about yourself, returning with a possibility of how you’re going to use this moment to bring more of yourself, your art, into the world?