I’ve seen thousands of clients as a psychologist over the past two decades and I’ve learned that the human experience is totally unpredictable. We can’t presume or take anything for granted and we never really know if adversity and traumatic experiences that happen in our lives will derail us or if we’ll bounce back and use them to live more satisfied lives. I’ve had a few experiences that dramatically altered and shaped the way I live my life and also motivated me to share several techniques that I utilized successfully and felt could help other people bounce back as well.

The events that altered the course of my life was my own near fatal experience with pulmonary embolisms, the death of my father and a long battle trying to identify a rare illness from which I alone believed my son was suffering from for nearly a decade.

Life Altering Experiences That Fell in My Lap

My most recent life-altering event happened during a dinner to celebrate my son’s birthday several years ago. I started having difficulty breathing and in order not to alarm anyone at the table, I left the restaurant to sit in the car. Lying down made my breathing increasingly more laborious.  A family member came to check on me, and minutes later my family rushed me to the emergency room. I remember distinctly not wanting my children to see me “pass” and trying to reassure them with my eyes that I was going to be okay.

At the hospital, a CAT scan showed I had multiple pulmonary embolisms, one of which had lodged itself between two ribs, the pain of which had saved my life. If I had waited any longer, the embolisms could have gone to my heart or brain. After a week of IV’s and blood thinners, I was released from the hospital. During that time I reflected on my life, and how fleeting life is. I realized that whatever I wanted to accomplish as a mother and as a psychologist needed to be done now, not later, because later, IS now!

Then ten months later, my father passed and I was tested again. Following his funeral, I made a decision to take three weeks off from work, (still an unprecedented amount of time for me to take off). I chose to roam around Europe pretty much on my own to mourn and get my head straight. This was viewed as a “popular” decision, but I bucked the people pleasing aspect and did what I felt was authentically right for me. My children were at sleep-away camp so that helped to reinforce my decision. While away, I worked through embracing my fears in a lot of areas around his death and the loss of his guidance. I realized I had to move on from my solitary mourning phase and integrate the mourning into my life. I wanted to repurpose my energy into a renewed sense of strength and positivity.

During the time both of these incidents occurred, I was also enduring an undiagnosed Illness my son suffered from time he was 6-months old for nine years. We were consistently rebuffed by medical professionals and friends who felt we were assuming something that didn’t exist. We were sliding into a slippery slope of despair and facing the fears of not knowing what ailed him and feeling impotent to help him. After traveling around the country and meeting with dozens of doctors and specialists, we finally discovered when he was 9 years old that he suffered from double aortic arch, a rare condition that had resulted in a slow strangulation of his trachea and esophagus. We flew to Boston to a pediatric cardiac surgeon where he had open heart surgery to cut and clamp one of his aortas to free up his esophagus and trachea. 

There was some permanent damage to his trachea, but we had our prayers had been answered and we were relieved. My son lost the invincibility of youth during those years, but he and I gained something so much more important together. We had learned how to spring back from adversity with newfound belief in our ability to face challenges head on with strength and positivity. This characteristic grows and strengthens us through difficult times and will continue to assist us during the challenges ahead of us.

Using Proven Techniques to Become Defiantly Resilient

Then in 2017, I took a leap of faith and decided to launch a brand platform entitled, Sustainable Life Satisfaction™, which was formulated based on six (6) techniques that I had been developing and refining over 20 years as a therapist with my clients; an unfettered desire to close, decision making, facing fears, avoiding assumptions, reducing people-pleasing behaviors and active self-reinforcement.

Looking back now, I realized that I had been utilizing all of them to cope with the unforeseen personal challenges and events that I described fell into my lap. I also discovered that when these techniques were coalesced together, they gave me the strength to persevere and become “defiantly resilient.” I believe we all have the power and strength to possess defiant resilience.

My mantra is when faced with adversity we need to summon our inner “fighting” mentality and a call to action.  Embracing our fears offers us an opportunity to test our strengths and not allow them to crumble us.  It’s also important to focus on what is within our ability to control, and not on what we can’t control.  If you coalesce these techniques, you can become defiantly resilient. I know, because it worked for me.

If I can bounce back, so can you!


  • Jennifer Guttman

    Clinical Psychologist: Children, Adolescents, Adults, Couples

    Dr. Jennifer Guttman is a leading Cognitive Behavioral Therapist and Clinical Psychologist with over 20 years of experience in the field of mental health. She has built thriving practices in Manhattan, NY and Westport, CT that provide weekly services for over 120 clients. Last year, Dr. Guttman launched her new lifestyle motivational brand platform, Sustainable Life Satisfaction, via her popular YouTube six-episode web series, “A Path to Sustainable Life Satisfaction.” She recently debuted as an author with her newly published workbook of the same title, which is available in e-book and paperback on Kindle/Amazon.com. Through her interaction with thousands of clients, Dr. Guttman found that over 80% of people don’t feel “happy” about some aspect of their lives. Her mission is to motivate and inspire people think about happiness in a realistic way. She created her SLS brand and six core techniques as a blueprint to help people feel more empowered, self-reliant, masters of their lives and put them on a path to achieving sustainable life satisfaction.