Much like the third long read today talks about how patience can be cultivated as a character trait, so can resilience according to clinical psychologist Rachel Goldsmith Turow. But what is resilience?
“The word resilience can be perplexing. Does it mean remaining calm when faced with stress? Bouncing back quickly? Growing from adversity? Is resilience an attitude, a character trait or a skill set? And can misperceptions about resilience hurt people, rather than help?
To sum it up in a sentence: Resilience is the ability to manage stress in effective ways. It’s not a static quality or attribute you’re born with, or a choice of attitude. Instead, it’s a set of skills that can be developed by repeating specific behaviors. As a clinical psychologist, researcher and educator specializing in training people to cope with stress more effectively, I know that resilience can be developed.”
She talks about certain building blocks that can be used to build resilience:
“Some building blocks of resilience are factors that are largely beyond one’s control, such as greater income and education and having supportive environments. Some are things you can do in your daily life, such as exercise, hobbies and activities, and getting adequate sleep. Other facets might take more time to develop, such as nourishing supportive relationships, building skills for tolerating distress and regulating emotions, meditation, incorporating spirituality or religion and practicing less self-criticism and more self-compassion.”
Indeed, resilience can develop from trauma:
“Sometimes painful feelings or experiences contribute to personal development. Post-traumatic growth refers to the positive changes that some people report after trauma, especially when they incorporate some of the resilience “building blocks” listed above. This includes better relationships, a greater appreciation of life and enhanced spiritual or philosophical understanding. Rather than expecting yourself to always feel good or to bounce back quickly, in some situations it may be wise to allow yourself to experience deeply challenging feelings and the personal growth that can ensue.”
She ends by saying that resilience may not be the answer to all situations. Sometimes, we need to either remove ourselves from the situation or fight the situation:
“Although coping with challenges has its place, for trauma survivors, people who have experienced racism or homophobia, or those living in regions especially affected by climate change, and many others, resilience falls flat. The word comes across as tacitly accepting the status quo rather than demanding accountability from those who caused harm or working to reduce the sources of stress.
Overemphasizing resilience can reinforce racial injustice by suggesting that people who are subjected to it are resilient enough to handle it. Having to wear a mask of resilience or put on a smile can add to the burden of racism, making resilience exhausting. Having to continually adapt to microagressions and other forms of racism takes a mental and physical toll, such that resilience to racism comes at a cost.”
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