“Resilience: is defined as an individual’s ability to properly adapt to stress and adversity”
Whether you’re the world’s most intelligent man, most successful woman, or most positive person in your family of friends — we all experience heart ache and adversity. But how does someone bounce back better than before, when they just watched their life crumbling before their eyes? Is it some sort of innate ability in humans that allows us to call on our resiliency when facing a crisis? Or is it a culmination of positive attributes that contribute to our ability to fight?
Let’s Talk About What Resilience Actually Is
According to Dr. Steve Wollin, a world-renowned Dallas based psychiatrist; resilience is a process not a single character trait or type of personality. It’s not something that only a lucky few of us get to experience — we all are capable of bouncing back from our life’s bumps and cracks.
During a conference for the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy, Dr. Steve Wollin delivered a powerful and eye opening speech about what he truly thought about resilience. He exclaimed that we are often taught that tragedy begets more tragedy. That when a child from a broken home experiences the adversity that comes with such an environment, they turn out with mental disorders. And that’s where the problem lies in modern Psychology — psychologists are consistently looking for the “disorder or disease” in human conditions. Whereas the new field of Positive Psychology focuses on observing the positive and beneficial aspects of experiencing trauma and the growth it leaves behind. And because of this new found interest into the benefits of the human psyche — research for surviving a life falling apart was born and Dr. Steve Wolin and his wife, psychologist Sybil Wolin Ph.D, were able to uncover how resiliency helps us to grow.
The Speech That Says There Is Hope
During the morning of the famous American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy speech to over 4,000 practitioners and industry experts, the magazine Psychology Today was able to sneak in an interview with psychologists Mr. and Mrs. Wolin about their research into overcoming life’s battles.
During the interview, Psychology Today asked the psychology duo what was their basis behind their research on resilience and they replied,
“My thinking on the subject reflects my own 20 years of research on adult children of alcoholics who do not repeat their parents’ drinking patterns; an existing body of research on resilient children; child-development theory; and a recent series of interviews Sybil and I have conducted with resilient adults.”
Dr. Steve Wolin goes on to say that resilience is born out of the ability to maintain your own sense of belief in yourself and self-esteem. He states that children who grow up in broken homes, are typically verbally abused and put down. Causing the child to feel worthless, like they can’t get themselves out of their situation, which ultimately leads to them developing problems of low self esteem later on in life.
The children that are able to rise out of the precipice and out of their parents shadows — never lose the belief in themselves and regulate their self esteem despite the crumbling nature of their family. And that’s where resilience is born.
So the message that Dr. Steve Wolin’s research and his team are conveying is that contrary to popular belief, it’s not the trauma or adversity that makes you stronger. It’s you — you facing adversity and having to call upon all of your mental and character strengths to help you adapt in your time of need. That’s what allows people to overcome hardship and grow because of it.
A Behavioral and Personal Account of Resilience
Dr. Steve Wolin made another great point that I personally saw reflected in my life this week. He pointed out that reframing how you view your current like is truly at the heart of resilience. When you’re able to face your adversity straight in the eye and still see the good in things, then something occurs. Because it is when we bathe our brains in happy and inspiring chemicals like endorphins and serotonin that we physiologically have the power to overcome hardship. We can think more clearly, we can see an option and a light at the end of the tunnel. It gives us hope.
But what no one ever seems to tell you, is that overcoming a life change that rattles every inch of bone in your body is not easy, it’s not. No one says how hard it is to change your life, to leave the love of your life, or to overcome death.
And facing my own adversity of separating from my long time partner this week — I reflected upon the good things in my life and the things that make me happy. And I realized that no matter what, kindness and the love for humanity will always trump adversity. Help someone else that is going through a tough time and you will without a doubt, come out better because you did. So I tell you this with great confidence, it will get better, if only you believe and be the person you want to see in the mirror.