The Usefulness of the Mood of Resignation

by Julia Bonadei

For the past eleven years, since initiating my journey of discovery in the landscape of Ontological Coaching, I have held the assessment that the mood of resignation is mostly unhelpful and that hanging out there should be kept to a bare minimum.

I’ve associated being in resignation as victimhood and for me that triggers a cascade of other assessments and emotions largely related to subliminal learning I had as a child.  My childhood was characterized by daily verbal, physical and psychological abuse at the hands of my mother.  To even be able to declare what I was on the receiving end of as ‘abuse’ is a breakthrough.  In my linguistic reality, I used to think and say in a self-illegitimizing way:  “I got hit and criticized a lot”.  It would take the acute paying attention of an Enneagram teacher when I was in my early forties, who, with narrowed eyes that saw beneath the surface of things, and a tender cocking of her head to one side, asked me in a tone oozing compassion and curiosity:  “Why don’t you call it what it was, Julia?”

I was a victim of child abuse.  There!!!!  To say it is to own it.  To own it is empowering.  Why I didn’t call it abuse for the longest time, was because I simply focused on the fact that I survived my childhood.  I formed an identity, a story, around being a survivor, being resilient, standing my ground (even if it led to more blows) and able to overcome tough circumstances with resolve, determination, and perseverance.  I had a child’s ability to naively dream a different future and, when that seemed impossible at times, I would simply grit my teeth and be determined to hold out for respite, albeit temporary.  Looking back now, this orientation echoes some of the narrative of the mood of ambition.  And tolerance:  I learned to put up with difficult situations until they changed.  I also learned to read the room, perceive the subtlest signs of danger, to take care of myself independently, to fight for myself (sometimes literally at my peril) and to resist the alternative:  annihilation!  All useful learning for a child, teenager and young adult making her way in a world that I perceived was wholly unsafe.

Now I’m in my early fifties, and 2024 marks ten years since I completed my Graduate Diploma in Ontological Coaching (as it was called back then) and began facilitating the Ontological Coaching & Leadership in Action public workshop.  As I take stock of this milestone, I’ve learned to get in touch with my own sense of Ontological safety – to feel more secure and confident in my understanding of reality, my identity and my bodily way of being in the world.  During this time, I have navigated a big relocation, launched a coaching business, got divorced, learned to be a single parent to teenage kids, navigated and overcame burnout, managed the Covid era, took my coaching business international, started dating again … an endless list of breakdowns and valuable breakthroughs.  It’s been a LOT.

During these ups and downs, the mood of resignation came knocking.  I refused to open the door!  Until…exhaustion got the better of me.  I’m not talking about tiredness… I mean the sheer exhaustion evidenced by blood tests showing that my adrenal glands were burned toast.  The body doesn’t lie.  My seeming relentless capacity to keep doing, trying and finding new ways through and around obstacles that enabled me to survive with grit, had to give.

And so began my fascination and curiosity with the usefulnesss of the mood of resignation.  I finally opened the door and made some precious discoveries.  Resignation has taken me by my reluctant hand and been a teacher.

Choosing resignation consciously and discern-fully in some circumstances has enabled me to take time to withdraw, rest and recuperate.  To manage and take care of my energy.  It’s enabled me to discern when the time is right to do nothing.  No-thing.  To allow a circumstance and life in general to simply unfold on its own terms without my interference.  It has revealed to me where I have tried to fix or change situations and relationships and, despite my best intentions, my repeated attempts have failed.  Consequently, it has pointed me to areas I needed to let go of – I may not want to but need to.  Resignation has helped me recognize the ways in which I feel helpless sometimes and allow myself to inhabit that vulnerable space and get intimate with it.  It has ushered in clarity about what I am prepared to attend to and what I am going to let go of, not because I don’t care, but because the cost of continuing to care in the same way is too high.  It has helped me to make grounded assessments of what is unlikely to change circumstantially, and what possibilities to consciously let go of, to minimize my own suffering.  It has paved the way for establishing boundaries in relationships that take care of my dignity and are worthy of my care and effort.  It has enabled me to legitimize the emotional experiences in myself and others of feeling like a victim in systems where power is mis-used and abused.

It has taught me how to surrender, to lay down the exhausting struggles and find a pathway to inner peace and self-compassion.