1 What does it mean to be resilient?
Life is so unpredictable. Yet, some people seem to bounce back from adversity quicker than others. Why is that? They could have been born into poverty, experienced perinatal stress, lived in troubled family environments, and had all the risk factors in developing severe learning, behavioral, or health problems. Yet, those individuals still grow into competent, confident adults. Those individuals have what is called resilience. Resilience has been shown to protect against breakdown resulting from trauma, as well as alleviate an individual's feelings of helplessness when faced with pressure or setback.
Resilience is a dynamic process allowing for positive adaptation in the context of signiﬁcant adversity. Resilience can be defined as a measure of stress-coping ability. It describes personal qualities that will enable individuals and communities to grow and even thrive in the face of adversity. It reflects the ability to maintain a stable equilibrium. In research, resilience is seen as a protective factor that fosters positive outcomes after exposure to unfavorable or aversive life circumstances. Resilience is now recognized as one of the essential elements in assessing healthy and pathologic adjustment following trauma. It is a critical factor for determining how people react to and cope with stressful life events.
2 - Who is resilient, and what makes them that way?
In 1971, Werner Bierman published a longitudinal study on children from the Hawaiian island of Kauai. The sample consisted of several children born in 1955 under difﬁcult, traumatic environmental conditions. The study evaluates these children's physical and psychological well-being and reported the family problems or delinquency that the children experienced. About one-third of children born in seemingly difﬁcult situations still grew up to be competent, self-conﬁdent, autonomous, and successful adults. From this study, the ﬁeld of positive psychology follows more than 40 years of studies on what is called "resilience."
Resilient people are aware of their situations, their emotional reactions, and the behavior of those around them. They then choose the course of their life, thought process, feeling, behavior or action.
3 - What are the health benefits of resilience?
Research suggests that resilience is negatively correlated with major psychiatric syndromes such as depressive and anxiety disorders, post-traumatic stress disorder, eating disorders, or addiction. Resilient individuals may experience short-lived distress in everyday functioning (e.g., several weeks of infrequent preoccupation or restless sleep), but generally exhibit a stable trajectory of healthy functioning across time.
4 - How can resilience be fostered in the wake of trauma?
Most people are exposed to at least one of three types of violent or life-threatening situations during their lives (Ozer, Best, Lipsey, & Weiss, 2003). Type I is described as a single sudden traumatic event (such as a car crash). Type II is described as chronic exposure to a specific trauma (such as intra-familial violence). Type III is described as multiple recurrent trauma starting in childhood until later age. The research shows that not everyone copes with these potentially disturbing events in the same way. Some people experience acute distress from which they are struggling to recover, while others suffer less intensely and for a much shorter period. Strangely, some people seem to recover quickly but then begin to experience unexpected health problems or difficulty concentrating or enjoying life the way they used to.
According to Leys (2018), many people manage to endure the temporary upheaval of loss or potentially traumatic events remarkably well. They have no apparent disruption in their ability to function at work or in close relationships. They seem to move on to new challenges with apparent ease. Researchers are discovering that resilience is more common than often believed.
Researchers agree that resilient individuals have a "Sense of Coherence (SOC)." SOC allows them to perceive their surrounding world as understandable, manageable, and meaningful. By having a SOC, many choose to improve their physical and psychological health independently of the presence or absence of trauma.
5 - How is resiliency developed?
The ways that people appear to cope or react with day to day adversity markedly determine how resilient they potentially are. How do those individuals respond to and deal with day to day stress?
Studies reveal the things that suppress resilience in people after trauma. They include lack of social support, poor prenatal influences, family background, and prior psychiatric history. Of course, some of these we have no control over. However, developing resilience means being committed to finding a meaningful purpose in life, believing that one still has the power of choice, and considering that one can learn and grow from both positive and negative life experiences. (Rolin et al., 2018). With these beliefs, individuals can develop the confidence to cope and deal with their distress.
6 - How do we learn to be resilient?
The higher the sense of coherence (SOC) individuals have, the more they can cope with the daily adversity and the more resilient the person becomes. Resilient people appear to cope with day to day adversity using positive emotions such as faith, gratitude, interest, love, and joy, laughter. Those are skills anyone can learn to develop.
Research shows that resilient people seek the support of others when needed. They strive toward personal or collective goals, and they display an action-oriented approach to solving problems. They are more capable of adapting to change, exhibiting qualities such as patience, tolerance, and optimism. They may also use past successes to confront current challenges.
7 - How common is it found that people are resilient to trauma?
Resilience is common. Resilience is the reason why everyone does not need counseling after trauma. (This might be strange for a counselor to admit, but it is true). Epidemiological studies estimate that most of the U.S. population have been exposed to at least one traumatic event during their lives (Rolin et al., 2018).
Resilient individuals exposed to traumatic events do not always exhibit chronic symptoms.
In some cases, the majority show the type of healthy functioning suggestive of the resilience trajectory. They can maintain relatively stable, healthy levels of psychological and physical functioning. Therefore, counseling is not necessary for all individuals who experience trauma. Resilient people tend to manifest adaptive behavior in morale, social functioning, and somatic health. Resilient people are "survivors."
8 - What are the six ways to build up resiliency regardless of the traumatic experience?
Request a copy of our resilient assessment to take on www.mindcare.us. Evaluate your reaction to day to day unexpected, troubling events. How do you react or respond to daily struggles?
Learn problem-solving techniques.
Surround yourself with positive influences (people, community, church)
Learn how to spot positivity or hope in every situation
Build a healthy mind – memorize positive sayings. The best source is the Bible.
Choose to believe in a more favorable outcome. Have faith that circumstances will work out for good.
Leys, C., et al. Perspectives on resilience: Personality Trait or Skill? European Journal of Trauma
&Dissociation (2018), https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ejtd.2018.07.002
Ozer EJ, Best SR, Lipsey TL, Weiss DS. Predictors of posttraumatic stress disorder and symptoms in adults: a meta-analysis. Psychol Bull. 2003 Jan;129(1):52-73. doi: 10.1037/0033-2909.129.1.52. PMID: 12555794.
Rolin H, Fossion P, Kotsou I, Leys C. Considérations sur la résilience : trait ou aptitude ? [Perspectives on resilience : trait or aptitude ?]. Rev Med Brux. 2018;39(1):22-28. French. doi: 10.30637/2018.17-050. PMID: 29528595.