You know those inflatable, life-sized toys that keep annoyingly coming back up each time you punch it or kick it or throw something at it? Well if you’re unsure of what resilience is; that’s a great way to understand the concept. It’s a person’s ability to be able to recover from adversity, get back up on their feet and stand strong when life throws punches at them. The loss of a loved one, losing one’s job, a failed marriage…these are all examples of life experiences which test one’s resilience.
Now that we have the WHAT aspect covered, let’s turn to the WHY of resilience. By that I mean the question of why people have different abilities and manners to cope with difficult situations. While some might be very negatively affected by hardships (low resilience), others would be able to deal with them easily (high resilience). These differences occur because of unique personality characteristics which are affected by genetic and environmental factors both.
Okay, now get ready for a small Biology lesson. Simply put, there is a particular way in which each of our brains is wired. Our responses to stimuli are all decided by the manner in which our neural circuitry is designed, the way we’re wired to think and act. So a large part of our response to stress is decided by the ways in which our brains develop since childhood. And what decides this? The way our parents’ genes tell our brains to develop. Genetics, thus, has a large part to play. But hold your horses. If someone is born with a poor coping mechanism, it doesn’t mean that there’s nothing they can do about it. Similarly, a genetically high resilience pattern isn’t permanent either. Neural circuitry can be adapted by epigenetic (or non-genetic) factors; including experiential learning and environmental factors.
Keeping all this in mind, people looking to turn a low resilience style into a high resilience one would ideally work on the following:
Internal Locus of Control: An understanding that one has a control over their own life, and the ability to face and counter externalities. Rather than blaming things on ‘bad luck’ or external situations; one is ready to understand that challenges are inevitable and they themselves have the ability to control situations.
Ability to Deal with Problems: During a crisis or any high stress situation, one’s reaction time, problem solving skills and damage control abilities are of utmost importance. Working on these skills goes a long way in avoiding helplessness and instead focusing on growth.
Strong Support System: Life’s punches are much more easily dealt with if social support systems act as a buffer to lessen the impact. Think of it like this; if you surround yourself with people who care about you, they can easily help you regain balance if and when you’re knocked down.