Froma Walsh said that resiliency is the capacity to withstand and rebound from challenges in life that requires important processes over time that promote the ability to ‘struggle well’, surmount obstacles, and proceed to fully live and love. Researcher George Bonanno defined resilience as the “ability of adults in otherwise normal circumstances who are exposed to an isolated and potentially highly disruptive event, such as the death of a close relation or a violent or life-threatening situation, to maintain relatively stable, healthy levels of psychological and physical functioning.” On a similar note, Abrams defines resilience as the capacity to readily recover from illness, depression, and adversity. In Morley Glicken's book, Learning from Resilient People, the author notes that those who are resilient are optimistic and believe in themselves. He says that they “have unusually ambitious dreams and aspirations that motivate them to succeed and are able to feel less emotionally trapped due to a positive identity.”
D. Milne notes that resilient professionals know what is true to them, are interested in the welfare of others, and understand a person’s emotions. They can figure out ways to solve their problems, are aware of things as they really are, can manage feelings, and know their strengths and vulnerabilities. They take the time to focus on themselves and those they care about. Dennis Charney, dean of research and a professor of psychiatry at Mt. Sinai School of Medicine, told Psychiatric News that people can learn to recognize their character strengths, engage them to deal with difficult and stressful situations and focus on things they do well. He believes that people can build on their strengths when faced with stressful situations. Think about those things that you do well, especially those things that help you to cope with your life changes.
In his book, The Resiliency Advantage, the author Al Siebert defines resiliency as the ability to cope with high levels of ongoing disruptive change while sustaining good health and energy when under constant pressure. Resilient people easily bounce back from their setbacks and overcome adversities. Siebert maintains that those who are resilient can change to a new way of working and living when an old way is longer possible. He maintains that resilience allows these folks to do this without acting in dysfunctional ways. Imagine a flexible rubber band being stretched. It appears resilient. This stretched out band is in a stressful situation yet it returns to its original state. Do you know how far you can stretch before you snap, like the rubber band? As you follow your own path and build resiliency, you might be amazed at how strong and flexible you are. Consider where your own resiliency comes from.
Ann S. Masten believes that resilience “does not come from rare and special qualities, but from the everyday magic of ordinary, normative human resources” (p. 9). While working on my manuscript for my upcoming book on support groups, Sherry Roberts sent me an email. She shared with me that she was visiting her elderly recently widowed father. I was touched by her story, which illustrates the everyday magic of the ordinary. She said, “The whole trip was tiring, but on my last evening there I discovered a place at the assisted living, a small contained courtyard filled with rabbits. Bunnies were everywhere: going down holes, munching on the food in big bowls, lounging on the patio furniture. I took my father and we just sat. It was there I remembered that the best moments are when we let go of the ‘stuff’ in our lives and simply sit in a courtyard where a family of rabbits is multiplying like, well, rabbits. This was one of the best moments of my visit. Sitting in the sun on the patio with my father and watching the rabbits chase each other.”
I could imagine her sense of calm, and it made me aware of a time when I felt the same way. A few years ago I was speaking at a psychiatric facility, located in the mountains of New Jersey. After the talk while walking to my car, my friend and I noticed several deer on the lawn. We stopped to watch them, trying to be as still as possible. The deer were not fearful of humans and did not mind our watching them. It was a calming experience, being still and sharing the moment with these beautiful animals and my dear friend in the silence . . . an everyday magic of the ordinary.
Ask yourself, "Where does my resiliency come from?" and let me know what you think!