Developing Resilience

What is resilience?

According to the dictionary definition (Shorter Oxford English Dictionary, 2002), resilience as defined in 1626 was "the act of rebounding or springing back". By 1830 the word was being used to refer to the act of "rising readily again after being depressed; cheerful, buoyant, exuberant".

We know that vulnerability to stress lies on a continum, with some individuals more resistant than others. In deciding whether one is resilient, two subjective judgements need to be made:

1. That there has been a significant threat to the individual
2. That the individual has adapted well to the circumstances

There is a distinction to be made be between coping, adaptation and resilience.

Many people see psychologists due to adverse experiences. However many people report that they have been transformed by an adverse experience and there seems to be an in innate capacity for us (in the long term) to flourish and thrive in the light of negative events. Often, physical and psychological distress can be a catalyst for change, and a new way of understanding ourselves and relating to the world. For most people who have encountered adverse events, life becomes more in enriching and satisfying because old values and habits are discarded. Others though, are "destroyed" by  similar stressors.

In the last decade our knowledge has grown in understanding how people stay well and what factors promote psychological resilience. People who introduce positive lifestyle changes (in terms of both thinking and behaviour) as a consequence of dealing with life stressors tend to do better than people who do not implement such lifestyle changes. Value in adversity is found by those who can incorporate adverse events into their life story.

Can resilience be learnt?

The answer is yes.

It appears that the different genders develop resilience in different ways. For example, girls learn resilience by building strong caring relationships, while boys develop resilience by learning how to solve problems.

There are a number of domains to resilience including emotional , moral and spiritual.

Broad-spectrum resilience has three main aspects.

1. Having a vision of oneself that is consistent with one's values and beliefs. This may include long-term goals, ambitions and aspirations.

 2. The ability to incorporate positive and negative life events into our life story.

 3. Building a sense of personal control and acknowledging what can and cannot be changed. This involves exercising control over stressors, rewarding oneself for successes, and forgiving oneself and learning from one's failures.

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