I was recently in a shop with a friend when a young man in his late twenties came in to get his hair cut. Friendly and likeable he was amusing the hairdresser with some stories of his birthday. It was not until he struggled to get the money out of his wallet, that I realized his hand was quite deformed. I was so struck by this positive young man that I said to my friend, “ I love his resilience.” I was very surprised when my friend replied, “ I envy it.”
Given that she had managed a considerable amount of anxiety over the course of the year while working and dealing with family loss, I was struck that she seemed unaware of her own resiliency.
Do you recognize your own resiliency?
Resilience can be understood in a number of ways. The most common definition of resilience is the capacity to adapt in the face of adversity – essentially the ability to bounce back from traumatic and difficult life events.
As such, resiliency is neither a single trait nor a static quality. Resilience looks different in different people because it is a function of many different factors including inborn traits like physical strength, intelligence, artistic ability; family of origin, early attachments, learned skills, emotional regulation, social skills, verbal abilities, problem solving, life experiences and more…
The Importance of Recognizing Your Resiliency
Central to coping is the belief that we can find a way to cope.
Remembering our comebacks as well as our setbacks is essential to our resiliency. It is an aspect of our known self that we need to affirm.
In the aftermath of the earthquake in Haiti, a young woman acknowledged,
Haitians are like Bamboo, they bend but they don’t break.
Dispelling the Myths about Resiliency makes our own resiliency easier to recognize.
Resiliency is not time bound
It took a number of years before a woman could feel entitled to feel joy after the death of her son. Despite the fact that she kept on with her family and job, she judged herself by world’s message “to get on with it.”
Resiliency is not incompatible with pain
My young friend in the opening vignette dismissed her resiliency because of the anxiety she had faced, and the fact that she often still had difficult days at work. Sadly her negative judgment of self-detracted from the resilience she was actually using.
Resiliency is not the absence of tears, anxiety, anger or despair. It is dealing with them, sometimes carrying them with you, while finding the way to go on.
Resiliency is not diluted by support of others
“ It is scary to move to the shelter, but we always figure out how to make it work.”
“ It is so hard that Mom isn’t here, but we know how to make the holiday the way she would have been proud.”
“ If I know you, you may not run the way you used to—but you will be competing in something.”
Strategies to Identify and Own Your Personal Resiliency
What do you use to regulate your stress on a day-by-day basis?
Walk, bake, pray, read, draw, garden, read the paper, watch sports…Your daily activities are the infrastructure for dealing with life events.
What do you do to regulate stress in the moment?
What would you identify as the personal trait that has been a life gift?
Patience, intelligence, social skills, artistic talent, spirituality, love of nature, athletic ability, persistence, curiosity, sense of humor?
Do you have flexibility of perspective?
Can you feel and receive gratitude?
Can you feel gratitude for the small things, the human connections, and the reasons to go on even in the face of pain and suffering? Can you accept the gratitude of others? Gratitude is expansive as it involves positive perspective and propels movement.
Can You Feel Hopeful?
Hope is related to resiliency because it is the ability to have options, to believe the future can be different from the traumatic past or difficult situation.
Do you wish to be hopeful?
Consider that the wish itself is a sign of resilience!
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Last reviewed: 25 Nov 2013