Sisu begins where perseverance ends

Emilia Lahti is a Finnish sisu researcher and a social activist. She is currently training for 50 marathons to raise awareness about interpersonal violence and overcoming it with sisu.

Adversities form an integral part of human experience, but what is it that enables us to endure the toughest of situations and take action against nearly impossible odds? What keeps us going when we feel we have reached the end of our abilities?

The Nordic country of Finland has a cultural construct known as sisu, used to describe the enigmatic power that enables individuals to push through significant hardships. The term dates back hundreds of years. However, the idea of sisu is much older. It is a central part of Finnish collective discourse and can been seen as a life philosophy. Sisu is extraordinary courage and determination in the face of adversity. It’s about not seeing a silver lining in the clouds, and yet jumping into the storm anyway. At the core of sisu is the idea that, in each of us, there is more strength than meets the eye.

Even though the construct of sisu has its roots in Finland, it is relevant to all human beings anywhere in the world. It is a potential which we all share and which can have a powerful impact on our daily lives. Sisu is embodied by people everywhere who defy the odds and hold on to hope when at first there seems to be none.

The aim of Sisu not Silence is to end the silence around interpersonal violence, remove the stigma and shame imposed on individuals who have experienced it, and create a community which survivors feel proud to belong to. Sisu not Silence features and highlights stories of overcoming abuse, regaining strength and reclaiming ownership of one’s story, if it was once lost.

Emilia Lahti is a researcher and social activist with special interest in applied positive psychology and social justice. Her ambition is to create practical, empowering applications, which can be leveraged on a systemic level to enable a more positive human future.

Emilia Lahti talks about Sisu in TEDx Turku