By PT Staff, published on November 5, 2012 - last reviewed on June 9, 2016
The ability to bounce back from all kinds of trauma, both physical and psychological, is one of our species' most impressive adaptations. Resilience has been carefully studied for decades, but PT bloggers (psychologytoday.com) say we still have more to learn.
To me the least known and most wonderful thing about resilience is that we are all capable of it. I have worked with veterans with trauma who thought there was no return. They felt like old men though they were barely 25. Now they are back on their feet, making friends, and working or attending college. Neuroscience has shown us that the brain is plastic and malleable: Change, growth, and understanding are always possible. —Emma M. Seppala, Ph.D., "Feeling It"
When I was in my 20s and filled with the sense of invulnerability that comes with youth, I thought resilience was an individual matter. If you are smart, young, and psychologically tough, you can find your way through even the most serious problems. But recovery from major hardships, such as spousal loss or unemployment, can take years. Now that I'm more battle-worn, I realize that to function in new circumstances, you have to be able to change your expectations and view of the world. —Melanie A. Greenberg, Ph.D., "The Mindful Self-Express"
When people suffer through and survive terribly traumatic, noxious, negating, and even life-threatening situations, they find some method to bounce back. Even neurosis, psychosis, and our myriad defense mechanisms (e.g., denial and dissociation) serve to enable the endurance of untenable and toxic experiences and preserve the possibility of a new life. In a sense, the self goes underground for protection, hibernating, waiting for the right time to heal. —Stephen A. Diamond, Ph.D., "Evil Deeds"
In fifth grade, I talked to a playground monitor about being bullied and being afraid I would be taken away from my parents. I told her about my brother, who'd been told he would lose the ability to walk by age 30, my stepfather who'd had two heart attacks and a severe motorcycle accident, my mother who was born with a heart valve defect. The monitor said, "Wow, your family has been through a lot." I remember telling her, "I don't view these things as bad, I view them as interesting." This, to some degree, is still my attitude. You can sit around and say, "It's not supposed to be this way," but in the end, what good does that do if you can't change it? —Lynne Soraya, "Asperger's Diary"
Research suggests most people recover from most losses and most traumas most of the time. Yet being aware of this rarely spares us from suffering when such losses and traumas occur. —Alex Lickerman, M.D., "Happiness in This World"
My dad is a Holocaust survivor. He survived with the help of others and through his own fierce will, anger, and bravery. As a child, I would wonder and worry about whether I'd have the personal power to survive something so terrible. I'll never forget the sense of relief his answer gave me: "Worrying about that question is futile. Don't even try to imagine how you'd handle a holocaust, because in the face of a crisis like that, you'd become someone else—someone with a strength you couldn't even picture or imagine now." —Ken Page, L.C.S.W., "Finding Love"