Let’s talk about Little Soldiers. Not vertically challenged members of the military but the 100 Little Soldiers that each of us has inside to handle the details of our lives.
The Little Soldiers are not fighters but rather they are more like the National Guard, dispatched to handle disasters and emergencies as well as just keep order in the camp, so to speak. You can think of them as your Resilience Team or your Coping Resources -- it works for me to imagine them as 100 Little Soldiers.
All of us are constantly dispatching our Little Soldiers to this or to that -- small things and big. It might take three Little Soldiers to make a difficult phone call, and it might take ten to receive one. This is super important: when Little Soldiers are dispatched on a mission (big or small), they cannot be used elsewhere.
The value of thinking in terms of 100 Little Soldiers is in understanding our resources are limited and cannot be used twice. This means that instead of exhausting the remaining Little Soldiers until they have collapsed in small, sobbing heaps, we let go of the need to send them running off in every direction, trying vainly to have just a few of them do the work of 100.
A Big Life Crisis can easily require 85 Little Soldiers for an extended amount of time. At some point the crisis will end and the Little Soldiers will come back for recharging, and everything will be okay -- but in the midst of that disaster relief mission nothing feels the least bit okay.
During such a time, we must take good care of the overworked Little Soldiers who have stayed behind to help us get out of bed. No unnecessary missions -- just the essentials. Nothing terrible will happen if the rug is not vacuumed or the dishes are not washed. And stock up on tissues because overworked Little Soldiers cry a lot.
When people we care about are in crisis and clearly running low on Little Soldiers, there are things we can do to help. First, we can avoid judging. None of us know how many Little Soldiers are off on disaster relief, and so we should assume it is a lot and that is why our friend cannot do her usual things. We need to be understanding and supportive, and not even suggest she should do anything extra -- like brush her hair or load the dishwasher or act normal.
Second, we can shout encouragement to the troops. "You can do this, Little Soldiers!" "Great job!!!" And we can gently remind them that their assignment is temporary -- Little Soldiers can do a lot if they know it won't be forever.
Third, we can send our own Little Soldiers to help. We do this when we take dinner, or give a hug, or send a prism to make rainbows, or send a note that says "you are loved." A humanitarian relief mission is something Little Soldiers typically love to do -- and there are so many ways to do it.
Thinking about our personal resilience as 100 Little Soldiers is a way to acknowledge both resources and limitations, and when we do this we can use the Little Soldiers wisely and with intention. Further, imagining how crisis demands a significant Little Soldier response helps us be gentle with our remaining troops -- with ourselves -- while the crisis is being handled. Finally, thinking in terms of 100 Little Soldiers invites us be kind and understanding with others as we recognize their experience of trying to manage "normal life" with very limited troops.
Do your Little Soldiers have an effective and compassionate leader? (aka YOU).