How was your April Fool’s day? No broken bones? No emergency room visits? Great! But so you’re prepared for next year’s AF day, we’re going to study how to be more resilient. Who better to help us than the King of Clowns, the Lord of Laughs, the Joker! He’s like those Bozo the Clown bunching bags that keep bouncing back up no matter how many times you knock ’em down.
(They still sell these things!)
Mirriam-Webster defines Resilience as:
Simple Definition of resilience
- 1. the ability to become strong, healthy, or successful again after something bad happens
- 2. the ability of something to return to its original shape after it has been pulled, stretched, pressed, bent, etc.
Full Definition of resilience
Still doubting Joker is the right villain for the job? Didn’t think so. We’ll be working with the Joker from Batman: The Animated Series*. The series used a Writer’s Bible, which kept all characters consistent.
Enough playing around. Onward!
1. Admit it: You’re in a mess:
Stop denying reality and realize when you’re in the middle of a tough situation. Resilient people admit the truth, because they know the faster they do, the faster they can fix the situation. It’s easy to recognize when you’re in a hurricane or other disaster, but not so easy when you’re in financial, health, or other “mundane” difficulties. Denial isn’t just a river in Egypt. As they say in Alcoholics Anonymous, admitting is the first step. If you don’t admit there’s a challenge to stand up and face, it’ll knock you flat before you realize it. Don’t get caught by surprise.
Joker makes his own messes. There’s good evidence, as Dr. Andrea Letamendi presents on the Arkham Sessions podcast (go listen! They’re addicting!), that the Joker enjoys interacting with Batman. Like the kid who misbehaves in school to get attention, Joker seeks Bats’s attention, even when that comes in the form of Batarangs and fists. He knows what he’s getting into. Because of that, he’s ready for what will happen next.
2. Handle your emotions: Get a grip!
What’s your first reaction in a crisis? How about just a challenging situation? If you answered, “Panic,” or “Freeze,” you’re not alone. The fight or flight response is instinctive. It’s protected the human race for thousands of years. The problem comes when you’re not facing a speeding car or a charging sabre tooth tiger. If your bank account is dropping into the red, and not because it’s hot, then your denying, freezing, and/or panicking aren’t going to help. In fact, they make it worse. You can’t run from or spear the kind of trouble we face in the 21st century – not usually, anyway. Resilient people take control of their emotions, not the other way around.
When you realize you’re in a crisis, stick to the basics: Breathe. Think. I find it’s helpful to grab a pen and paper and write down what the crisis is, what my options are, and what my challenges are. This is called a SWOT analysis in business: Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats. Once I can see it on paper, it’s not this nebulous mass of evil over my head.
The Joker doesn’t panic. Ever. He gets mad. He gets violent. This is usually aimed at Harley or Batman. He knows what the worst that can happen is: Batman will knock him around a bit and send him back to Arkham, where Joker can escape at his leisure. Yes, there’s a risk of death, but it’s small. Most of life in Western countries is like this for most of us. Joker actually treats it as an amusing game. Which leads us to…
3. Play a game:
When you were a kid, did your mom make cleaning your room into a game? Yeah, neither did mine. But the point is, turning a drudge task that you have to do to dig out of your crisis pit can become a game if you change your perception. In Surviving Survival: The Art and Science of Resilience*, it’s stated that patterned activities such as games – made up by your or not – stimulate the part of the brain called the striatum. This is part of your reward center. Learning new skills, accomplishing tasks, and executing patterns triggers it.
While Riddler is keen on games, the Joker is just as big of a fan. He’s usually holed up in an old amusement park and makes it a game for Batman to find him. It’s a game for Joker to see how much he can make Batman suffer or be otherwise inconvenienced. Christmas With the Joker was such an adventure. At the same time, it’s a game for Joker to try to pull off a heist or other crime.
4. Quit already:
When everything’s against you, sometimes your best option is to quit. Advance in the opposite direction and live to fight another day. Part of resilience is knowing when to leave before you’re broken. There’s a misconception in our culture that sticking with something to the bitter end is admirable. It’s not. It’s stupid. If the ship is sinking and you know it, get in the lifeboat, genius. If your organization, project, plan, etc. is going nowhere, get off and get on a course that will help.
It’s stressful being in an unwinnable situation, according to Think Like a Freak: The Authors of Freakonomics Offer to Retrain Your Brain*. Your life has enough stress as it is. Now, I’m not saying you have a free ticket to bail out on every situation, but there are some that are legitimately unwinnable. These will destroy you. It’s up to you to figure out if that’s your situation or not, though.
When the Joker is completely outmatched, outmaneuvered, and outbrained by Batman, he’ll sometimes throw up his hands, grin, and call it a day. He’ll be back in a week or two to do it all again. He’s done all this before. It’s like a ritual. But he also knows just how far to go. He could be suicidal, but he’s not. People call him crazy, but that of course isn’t a medical term. Sure, he has mental illnesses, but he knows what he’s doing. Insanity is a legal term, and he doesn’t meet it.
5. Have delusions of grandeur: Believe in your skills:
“These successful people are all delusional!” This is what researcher Marshall Goldsmith, author of What Got You Here Won’t Get You There: How Successful People Become Even More Successful*, shouted after he performed a study of successful people. He found that if your assessment of your own skills is spot-on, your goals will be too low. Successful, resilient people overestimate their abilities but not the situation. They have confidence, and that carries them. That’s not to say they always succeed. They don’t. Failure goes with the territory, but they keep trying different strategies and tactics. You learn more from defeat than victory anyway.
The Joker is over confident. He’s a rockstar in his own mind. What’s the result? He’s very successful at what he does: terrorizing people as a villain extraordinaire. If he realized he was just a human with no super powers and a shockingly pale complexion, he’d pine away in depression. Instead, he sees himself as the Joker, the King of Comedy. He thinks his jokes are hilarious and his plans are genius.
6. Be prepared: It’s never too late to prepare:
It’s never too late to prepare, because things can always get worse! Isn’t that a ray of sunshine? It’s true, though. Just because you survived the plane crash doesn’t mean you won’t be eaten by polar bears now. Think ahead and try to imagine what the consequences of your current crisis and your actions in it will be. What can you do to mitigate further crises? It’s also never too early to plan for the next, unrelated disaster. There’s no better way to be resilient than to ready yourself for the situation.
People who are prepared and/or experienced are more successful in dealing with trouble than the unprepared/rookies. I’m not saying go all-out Dooms Day Prepper, but do have a little padding: financial, food, energy, time…
The Joker takes pride in trying to foresee Batman’s next move. Then Joker will play with that. Example: the BANG flag gun instead of a real firearm. He’s prepared for Batman’s and the police department’s attacks. Of course, he always ends in defeat, but he gives it a good shot.
7. Get busy, stay busy:
During a crisis it’s easy to panic, as we mentioned. What’s a great way to keep your head in the game? Get involved in the game. Stay busy dealing with the tasks you need to complete in order to get out of the hole. Don’t start ruminating on the situation. Don’t be like St. Peter walking on the water: he sank because he took his eyes off the goal and let his circumstances worry him. Stay absorbed in the situation. “Keep brain moving forward,” as the Dog Whisperer says.
In Surviving Survival: The Art and Science of Resilience, Harvard psychiatrist Richard Mollica says that you either get organized or you die. Responding constructively to trauma/disasters is the best way to survive and stay calm.
Joker is always plotting. Even when he’s locked away in Arkham for that week between being sentenced and escaping, he’s organizing his resources and getting ready for the next scheme. This keeps his spirits sky-high and his thinking clear. …Yes, you can be a delusional clown and still have clear thinking to carry out a plot. Serial killers’ aren’t exactly normal, but they can organize and carry out crime amazingly well. (Hi, Dr. Lecter!)
8. Get and give help:
Taking your mind off yourself is a great way to handle tough times. Helping other people benefits you, as it allows you to step back from your own problem. You feel like you’ve accomplished something and you’ve been valuable to someone.
On the reverse side, don’t be shy about seeking help from others. People are more willing to lend a hand than you’d think. All you have to do is ask. Seeking help from professionals and organizations, depending on your crisis, is also wise. Communities exist for a reason. Help and get help. Resilience doesn’t happen in a vacuum.
Joker is quite happy to help other people smile. Joker gas is involved, but hey, it’s the thought! He’s also the first to hire or otherwise acquire help. If it’s not Harley and the hyenas, it’s his henchmen. Or maybe even a robotic clown. He knows he can’t pull off his stunts alone.
9. Stay loose, stay flexible:
Often we make our own crises by being rigid. Resilient people are flexible, open to change, and able to alter their plans. When we convince ourselves that life must proceed a certain way, and then, shockingly, it doesn’t, we bring on our own suffering. Stay laid back and flexible. Then you can wave in the hurricane like a palm tree rather than getting uprooted like an oak. Remember, life is under no obligation to give you happiness. The world doesn’t owe you anything, but it can throw anything at you. Be ready.
The Joker takes threats as they come. He’s got razor playing cards, Joker gas, or an acid vat ready to roll. Batman is actually occasionally unpredictable. Rare, but it does happen. Joker has to be ready for Robin to show up, or for Batman to rig a trap. If he was set on things going only one way, he’d get so discouraged he’d probably give up crime altogether.
10. Live and learn and live:
Bad times come. You deal with them. What measures resilience is what you learn from the tough times. Can you prevent a reoccurrence? Can you decrease the severity if they do reoccur? Do you feel better emotionally, physically, mentally, financially, etc able to cope with the next challenge? Experience should teach you something. That’s how you level up, right?
The Joker has learned Arkham is easy to escape. He’s learned Batman probably isn’t going to kill him. However, he hasn’t learned that Batman will always win. But points for persistence, Mr. J!
11. Maintain connections:
This goes along with getting help. We can get so focused on ourselves in hard times that we forget other people exist. Relationships can cause us pain, but mostly they make you more resilient. A network/support system can listen to you vent, offer a sympathetic word, and give you advice. Don’t isolate yourself. Keep and cultivate your connections.
Joker occasionally goes into sulk mode or pisses off his every-trusty Harl. But even if she doesn’t return to him, he’ll usually seek to rekindle the relationship with her. Their relationship is dysfunctional and abusive, but it’s still the closest thing he has to a connection or friend. I’m not counting the hyenas; Harley cares for them most of the time
12. Let the tension loose:
Instead of letting your situations wind up your emotions, seek a way to relieve stress. Resilience is about coping with stress. Have a constructive hobby? Work on that when you’re under strain. Take your mind off your problem. When you come back to the mess you’re dealing with, you might just see it in a new light. Being resilient means being able to bounce back. You can’t do that if you’re so stressed you snap.
Joker releases tension by executing his zany schemes. His non-Arkham life is his way of letting off steam. Overall, he’s just not a stressed guy.
13. Laugh: Why so serious?
Laughter is healthy. It releases endorphins (natural happy juice your body produces) and helps decrease cortisol levels (a stress hormone that can damage your health if you’re chronically deluged in it). It heightens mood and increases circulation. Even just smiling can improve your outlook.
He’s the Joker. His catchphrase in the movies is, “Why so serious?” His gas weapon puts people into states of continual, involuntary laughter. He even put a chemical in Gotham Bay to make the fish grin! He knows the power of laughter.
14. Be positive:
Stay thirsty, my friends- no, way, stay positive. I don’t mean be upbeat about everything to the point of being delusional. You’ll get punched in the face sooner or later by an annoyed acquaintance if you do that. I mean have a positive outlook: be tough, tell yourself you can get through this, and actually believe it too. Resilience is mental even more than physical. Being realistic is important, yes, but don’t let that slip into pessimism.
I’ll refer you to the previous entry. The Joker is about as positive as you can be, though he does have outbursts of anger toward Harley and his henchmen.
15. Find a purpose:
With purpose there is hope, and with hope we can bear almost anything. No VLN post would be complete without me reiterating the need for a goal. No goal = no target. No target = nothing to aim at. Having a purpose for your life, a goal for your activity, is one of the best ways to be resilient, because you’ll push through hail and fire to reach it if it means enough to you. If you’re just wandering aimlessly, however, you’ve no real reason to stick out tough situations. You’ll float from place to place and person to person, never setting down and persevering long enough to reap the rewards of surviving trials.
The Joker’s purpose is…apparently to see how big and bold he can live. He’s not into taking over the world. He likes wealth, but that’s never his only aim during his wild schemes. He would probably kill Batman if he could, but he’d regret it afterward. See The Man Who Killed Batman if you doubt me.
How Resilient Are You?
Head to Experience Life and take the test. If you’re as delusional about your abilities as you should be, you should score well.
Agree? Disagree? Let us know in the comments. Perform your own villain assessments with the Villain Matrix. Use the Villain Matrix spreadsheet that comes free when you join the Research Team, where you’ll also get our newsletter with its exclusive updates and content.
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