By Emily Standley
Resilience refers to an individual’s capacity to withstand stressors, thrive, fulfill their potential, despite, or even because of adverse life events. This image of the soldier immediately brings this to mind. Soldiers in the Military receive intensive stress training in emotional resiliency. To be able to think logically during extreme intense physical and mental situations is paramount to performing their duties.
But we as ordinary Humans every day have to deal with change and loss as an inevitability in life, some adverse life events are what we might call ‘minor’ when it comes to seeing life as a big picture, although when they happen, they can be both debilitating and quite distressing. Others occur on a much larger scale, such as war, death, trauma, and other personal and environmental disasters like hurricanes, earthquakes and the like.
Adaptation and knowing how to cope with such challenges plays a significant role in the long-term psychological benefits as well as consequences of experiencing adverse life events. The ability to not take things personally is another positive trait that goes hand in hand with resiliency.
Some individuals prove to be more resilient in the face of stress than others, in that they remain calm when confronted by stressful events, while others go into ‘meltdown’, and others appear to fall apart. We see this in children early on with their different temperaments. Some babies seem to go with the flow and are labeled ‘easy’ while others whine and protest at seemingly every stimuli.
This ability to cope with what others experience as overwhelming is what Psychologists call resilience. People who are able to cope and recover from difficulties in life are considered to be psychologically resilient. Such individuals have the ability to adapt when demands are high, and have a tendency, on reflection, to see problems as an opportunity for growth.
It is the bounce back factor that differentiates resilient people from those who find it more difficult to cope with stressful life events. Such individuals tend to feel overwhelmed, may dwell on their problems more, make use of unhelpful coping strategies (drugs/alcohol, & other toxic habits), and show slower psychological recovery from setbacks in life.
Most people thankfully, do have resiliency skills hibernating within them in different degrees, until called forth by tragedy or some other form of loss. When disaster strikes they find the inner strength to cope and find a way through their pain.
This sometimes comes as a surprise to those concerned, to discover that they have hidden reserves of strength which helps them through. The rude awakenings in life can bring our untapped capacity to deal with stress to the forefront.
As Nancy Reagan said ‘a woman is like a teabag, you can’t tell how strong she is until you put her in hot water.’ Or something to that effect:) Naturally this applies to all, not just women.
There have been countless occasions, when I have been inspired and humbled by the resilience of the human spirit; how people survive, and even thrive in the face horrific life events.
I am concerned however that with the easy and frequent access to news and the internet nowadays that young children, teens and even adults are becoming far too conditioned and complacent to the unfortunate frequency of certain tragic events and images.
One wonders if we all are perhaps developing an unhealthy indifference, insensitivity and tolerance to them with such indecent and graphic minute by minute, repetitive exposure.
These traumatic events on a worldwide scale in recent years have highlighted how some people display typically resilient behaviors. Events such as 9/11, the most recent devastating Hurricanes, and frequent natural disasters like Tsunamis, Earthquakes, and the Wild Fires in California.
As well as the horrible tragedies caused by us Humans; The Boston Marathon bombings, Las Vegas Tragedy and the all too frequent school shootings we’ve horrifically had to witness on far too large a scale.
All of these events expose people to serious adverse life events, and yet, in these situations we have also witnessed countless acts of human courage, camaraderie and emotional buoyancy.
Resiliency does not prevent stress from occurring in life, although it does appear to give stressed individuals what we call a ‘bounce back factor‘, This ability to bounce back from disasters allows people to cope, recover, and move on.
So does one learn to become more resilient?
Research has demonstrated that although resilience appears to be a natural ability for some individuals, others can learn resiliency skills.
Resiliency skills can enhance your ability to cope when life throws things at you that de-rail you, causing you to feel overwhelmed and defeated whether at work, in your personal relationships or any other difficult circumstance.
Other Articles of Interest
So, it is possible to make stress work for you. There is an African proverb which states: “Calm seas do not make skillful sailors. “People need a certain amount of stress in life to learn how to cope when things go badly!
We have to remember there’s no such thing as utopia. Perhaps in brief fleeting moments…:)
Helicopter parents are widely criticized for ‘hovering’ over their children with the intent to ‘protect’ them from life’s stressors. Studies show they’re really harming them greatly with this practice. Kids have to learn to make mistakes and Fail – thereby proving to themselves that they can overcome if something negative in life happens (which it inevitably will!) and learn from it.
In what way then, are resilient people different? We all know that stress and setbacks are a normal part of life. Resilient people seem to have something called a high ‘internal Locus of Control’. This concept was developed by Julian B. Rotter in 1954.
It refers to an individual’s perception of the amount of control they have over their life. Those who perceive that their lives are controlled by external factors are high on external Locus Of Control. Those who perceive that they have control over their own lives are said to be high on Internal locus of control.
I have to say while I have had to learn and take years to understand and am still trying to acquire it, my daughter Charlotte and her two brothers (both formerly in the Military) all seem to of been born innately with more aspects of this.
Psychological flexibility and adaptability is another resiliency skill and a form of emotional intelligence. This involves being able to accept what is happening and respond accordingly, in short, an ability to embrace change.
We’ve all heard the term ‘go with the flow’:) And one of my favorite quotes is: ‘Bend like the willow, don’t break like the Oak’. Not always easy, but a necessary emotional survival skill.
What methods can assist with attaining resilience? Optimism training, positive imagery and affirmations, a willingness to seek out support from others, a strong social network and a belief in yourself contribute to overall resilience.
Everyone can benefit from improving their ‘bounce back’ factor. Resilience is not only called for when disaster strikes, it can be a powerful skill in achieving personal, professional and every day success in life.
Ask yourself, what are you afraid of? What sets you back? If you had more resiliency would you be able to achieve your dreams?
Please like and share on social:)