The seanfhocal Is fearr eolas ná iontas – Knowledge is better than surprise, highlights the Irish love of knowledge, Not just for its sake but for its use. Knowing something, is of value, learning is the ongoing skill. To be wise is worth the effort and yes it does beat being surprised or caught out.
Knowledge is power yes but more importantly knowledge is life – we see that message across the most popular seanfhocail and within our favoured mythos where wisdom is prized as much as physical prowess. Long before Ireland earned the reputation of saints and scholars, we tasked our warriors with attaining poetry and insight; that ‘salmon of knowledge’ fed the imagination of generations and continues to do so.
One could equate this proverb with ‘To be fore warned is to be fore armed’ and it is in one sense about not being caught off guard but it is also a general reminder of the advantage of knowledge, of pursuing wisdom and strengthening intellect. To have a basis of understanding rather than permanent wondering or second guessing.
This proverb reminds me of the concept of ‘sense of coherence’, developed by Professor Aaron Antonovsky in the 1970s to explore/explain why under stress some people become ill and others manage to stay healthy. The theory proposes that those with a sense of coherence are more adaptable to stress and less susceptible to anxiety and so are less bothered or impacted by the physical and mental strains that can undermine general wellbeing.
Having a sense of coherence is a type of core belief that things will work out for the best, based upon a worldview that’s sees the world (or lived life) as something manageable, understandable, and meaningful. That world view or acquired mindset has value as a coping strategy. As a mix of optimism, resilience and control, it ticks all the aims this book asks of you. It ticks all the knowledge/cognitive approaches that negate or helpfully frame the vicissitudes of life into manageable and understood bites.
The three components of a sense of coherence are comprehensibility, manageability, and meaningfulness.
Comprehensibility can be thought of as clear thinking – as the extent to which events unfolding are perceived logically, as making sense. It is seeing the reality of the situation. We are actively developing this via our search for the rational and rooting out of the irrational, via the thought records and questioning of assumptions, via the work on core believes and developing more positive but realistic perceptions/framing.
Manageability is the extent to which a person feels they can cope with any given situation; it is not just about a willpower; it is also about the correct problem-solving skills and having the right resources at our disposal. To develop stronger coping skills and a survivor’s mindset. The victim is overwhelmed, the survivor overcomes. One step at a time is one of our earliest lessons and perhaps the most fundamental. Counselling and supports also make our condition more manageable.
Meaningfulness is our motivational aspect, that sense that life has a purpose, that the current episode is more of a challenge than a burden and that overcoming it will strengthen character not deplete resources. It is how we make sense of the pain or hurt; perhaps as growing pains not inflicted wounds. I am not saying it is easy, but acceptance, loving kindness and gratitude all flow from and toward this understanding – this insight, this higher purpose. The goal after all is a meaningful life.