How Do We Bounce Back From Adversity?

ON RESILIENCE

DOROTHY E. HILL, R.N.C. President, American Psychiatric Nurses Association; Interim CEO, Acadia Hospital, Bangor, Maine

According to the laws of physics, resilience is the ability to demonstrate the quality of elasticity. When we humanize the word, we speak of those who bounce back from adversity, those who persevere through difficult times and return to a healthy state of being. Though I am not certain you can actually "get resilience" there may be ways-through therapy, relaxation techniques and meditation--that help strengthen our inner selves and our belief in ourselves. We can learn to be less vulnerable to emotional adversity. It is believed that some people are genetically better able to handle the stresses of life and to bounce back from difficulties. Yet I think a common theme in many people who display resilience is a belief in something bigger than one's self. Perhaps a spirituality that comes from within and without. This spirituality allows acceptance that we, as individuals, are not in control of the future and that we are vulnerable beings. This understanding helps us concentrate on what we can do to make the world a better place.

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DANIEL B. BORENSTEIN, M.D. Immediate Past President, American Psychiatric Association

Individual resilience is closely related to our personal sense of security or how comfortable we feel about ourselves. The more stable we are psychologically, the more we can tolerate the stresses of outside events. A flexible container impinged upon by an outside force will change shape temporarily, but will spring back to its previous configuration shortly thereafter. It is resilient. The healthier one's psyche, the more one can withstand both the expected and unexpected slings and arrows of life. The road to psychological health begins with normal genetics followed by an upbringing in a loving, stable family.

JANE GOODMAN, PH.D. President, American Counseling Association

Resilient people don't avoid life's hard knocks; they bounce back, survive and flourish. My personal image of resilience is a large blow-up figure weighted at the bottom. It pops back up when you knock it over. Why are some people resilient? There may be a genetic component. Yet we know that it can be learned and that people can become more resilient as a result of counseling and therapy. It seems likely that resilience is based on past experience of mastery, of positive outcomes from transitions and from reinterpreting past events. Resilient people seem to externalize blame and internalize success. The belief in one's resilience seems to allow people to take risks--most successful people have had some failures. It seems to be related to confidence, self-efficacy, flexibility and optimism. Resiliency is in demand in today's stressful, rapidly changing world, perhaps more than ever before.

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