Resilience is the ability to cope well with difficulties and to bounce back from setbacks.
While some people are naturally more resilient than others, resiliency can also be intentionally developed.
People as Adaptive
Often people will tell me about their "sickness", or "problem", or "scratch" (שריטה). How we approach things is profoundly affected by the language we use. Language ascribes meaning. When we use words like sickness, problem, or scratch; it implies something wrong with us, a blemish. Consider a different languaging which comes from a view (ascribed to by me!) that people are actually, essentially, adaptive. From this adaptive approach, one could use the following language: people have patterns of thinking or acting that are not currently bringing them the desired results. These patterns are not inherently sick, wrong, or negative. In fact, according to this adaptive approach, the patterns were at some point - adaptive. The issue now is in what ways these patterns continue to be helpful, and in what ways they now hinder.
Here's an example. Consider someone raised or having spent considerable time in an environment where the person in charge was very dominating, where there was only one right way, and where attempts to be creative or proactive were discouraged or even "punished" (led to a negative result). Assuming a person had to, or chose to, stay in this environment, there is a good chance such a person would adapt by becoming passive (doing as directed, only). Such a person is likely to continue to be passive in a new environment. At that point the person can consider themselves as "problematically" passive, or having a passivity malady. Or, the person can recognize their strength in adapting to a previous environment, and now look how this pattern is currently helping and how it is currently hindering.
Or, consider someone who was raised or spent considerable time in an environment where the one who would normally be in charge was incapacitated or passive, for example, a chronically ill parent. Such a person might become hyper-responsible, to the point of not seeking or accepting help from others. Again, this pattern was likely adaptive at one point, leraning to handle everything on one's own is an adaptive way of managing a situation where usual help is not forthcoming. And, the continued pattern may no longer be bringing that person the results they currently desire.
Why is all this important? A characteristic of high level resilience is having a problem-solving orientation. Examining how previously adaptive patterns of thinking and behavior are currently helpful and unhelpful is more naturally aligned with problem solving. Considering oneself as sick, blemished, wrong, or problematic is less amenable to problem solving (and frequently depressing). This is not to suggest that patterns are easy to change. Occasionally increased awareness of a pattern and its effects is enough to lead to a shift in the thinking or behavior. More often, changing the pattern requires concerted effort and sometimes professional assistance. And, shifting one's approach and language is an important first step.
Carolyn S. Tal, PhD
Psychologist and Consultant
Working with individuals and partners in
developing resilience and related issues