In one of my recent posts I discussed why it is important to recognise your own code of resilience and referred to some valuable insights by Suzanne Phillips, Adjunct Professor of Clinical Psychology at Long Island University.
In this post she dispels three myths about resilience, which she believes makes our own resilience easier to recognise.
1) Resilience is not time bound
Expert Glen Roisman clarifies that resilience is the capacity to find a way back to successful adaptation and functioning even after a period of disorganization and disruption.
Often in the aftermath of a traumatic event we are frozen. This is a normal reaction to danger and threat. We need time to move out of a numbed state to reassess how we go on with our life.
Sometimes it can take time to remember – “have coped before.” “I will find another job.” “I will take it day by day” or as one young lady who lost her brother said,” minute by minute.”
People cope in their own time and in their own way.
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.”
2) Resilience is compatible with pain
It is common to downplay the strength of your resilience because of the anxiety you face and the fact that difficult days are still experienced at work and in your personal life. Sadly a negative judgment can detract from the resilience that is being used.
Anxiety is human and resilience 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.
3) Resilience is not diluted by support of others
American physician, public health scientist and educator Siddharth Ashvin Shah, drawing upon his international disaster work, reminds us that in times of stress there is not only a release of stress hormones but of oxytocin, the hormone associated with mother-infant attachment and the breast-feeding bond. It would seem we are wired to attach to others in the face of adversity and trauma. Our urge and ability to connect expands resilience.
In the face of war, natural disaster and even the trials of everyday life, the presence of family and loved ones serves to buffer stress. Particularly for children, connection to loving parents or caregivers is the most important antidote to traumatic impact.
Attachment serves to enhance resilience as it offers the opportunity to affirm “the capacity to go on.” It is not a replacement for attunement or empathy for suffering. It is the shared message that we can do it such as;
“It is frightening to move to the shelter, but we will figure out how to make it work.”
“It is so hard that Mum isn’t here, but we know how to make the holiday the way she would have been proud.”
“Dad, you may not feel physically strong; but we all know – you will always be a powerful man.”
In summary, resilience is about pushing through or bouncing back, but it doesn’t shield the pain or anxiety, can take a short time or a long time but almost always is helped through being part of a community of people.