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.
Ever wonder how two people can look at the exact same thing and yet "see" it so differently? We are exposed to so much information that we have devised shortcuts (usually unconsciously) that help us selectively attend to all this information. Ideally we would attend to what is "important to us" and let pass what is” unimportant". Ideally we would be logical and unbiased in selecting what is important and unimportant. And, the ideal is not always reality.
In reality we humans often see our world according to a "confirmation bias". We tend to be good at noticing and remembering things that confirm our beliefs, and less good at noticing and remembering things that prove our beliefs wrong.
Suppose that you are very confident in your ability to present to an audience. You are likely to notice the members of the audience who are maintaining eye contact with you, who are asking questions relevant to your presentation. You are less likely to notice members of the audience who are looking glassy-eyed or drowsy, or whispering to others. Suppose you are very certain that you are not good at presenting to an audience. You are likely to notice the glassy eyes and drowsiness, and the whispering; and may not even notice audience members maintaining eye contact, or reflecting their attention through their questions. Someone yawning in the first row is likely to be "seen" as an indication of boredom by the person who believes they are not good at presenting, while the person confident of their ability to present is more likely to remember that the person yawning literally came in on the red-eye flight that same morning.
Or suppose you believe that people are basically trustworthy. You are likely to pay particular notice to people keeping their commitments to you, open communication, and stories of people returning wallets found on the street. You are likely not to notice or explain away when someone is consistently late, omits important facts, or engages in petty theft. The person who believes that people are basically not trustworthy is more likely to notice the lateness, omissions, and petty theft, and not notice or explain away the keeping of commitments, open communication, and altruistic behavior.
Evidence that supports our beliefs can stick to us like Velcro, and evidence that contradicts our beliefs can slide right off like Teflon. Increasing our resilience rests on seeing an increasingly accurate picture of our world. There are two crucial steps in overpowering our confirmation bias to perceive more accurately. First, work on noticing your automatic tendency toward this bias. Second, ask yourself questions to intentionally expand your perception and so expand the accuracy of your perception. Ask: What else might I not be seeing? Ask yourself detective-like questions such as "what evidence is there for what I believe to be true" and "what evidence is there against what I believe to be true"? Take extra time to review the data available.
The Velcro-Teflon effect is a natural automatic human reaction in processing the large amounts of information in our world. We can affect this reaction, and increase our resilience, by consciously and intentionally expanding our processing.
Carolyn Tal, PhD; Psychologist and Consultant
Working with individuals and partners in developing resilience and related issues.