Resilience is one of the things we all want to be capable of, both ourselves and the people we care about. Although this concept is defined in many ways, resilience means, according to the literature, the ability of the human psychic to go through adverse events without developing psychopathology. Somehow, it refers to a psychological flexibility which makes the psychic able to “bend” during events without “breaking”, and at the end of events it can return to the original form. When there is a rupture we talk about trauma and less about resilience.
Resilience is not something you have or do not have. It is something that can be developed and trained. It would be best to be formed during childhood and to have continuity through life. Among parents it’s very useful to understand how resilience is built in their children so that they can take action. In this article we will talk about the components of resilience, how they are built and what steps to follow in order to get resilient.
What we must have so we can be resilient are the protective factors. These factors refer to those things that a person has in her life that helps her to get through the difficult and even traumatic times. For example, a good financial situation, a good overall health, a family , good friends and access to quality education. These are factors that contribute to forming resilience and maintaining it. It is not just about the internal capacity to not be traumatized, but it is about all the other external factors that succeed in forming a protective layer in your life. To understand more deeply what we are talking about, you can imagine that losing a loved one, for someone also having a poor health, not having close people around, this loss is likely to cause trauma inside the person. If the whole context would be different, one context in which the person who suffered the loss would have secure relationships with people around her, good health, good financial situation, access to professional help that usually costs it is more likely to never speak about trauma, only about a hard time to get through.
Protective factors can be internal and external. As you have noticed, health is an internal one and the financial situation is an external one. A combination, a balance between them is required. In childhood, the most important protective factors are the external ones because children are completely dependent on adults and are in a continuous development. Thus, the health of adults, their ability to properly care for the child, to provide with the necessary education, to provide with access to a qualitative medical system and the ability to provide the child with a healthy relationship are the most important protective factors. It is necessary for the adults caring for the child to be able to emotionally connect with the child, to recognize their physical and emotional needs and to satisfy them in an appropriate and sufficient manner. At the same time, it is important for adults to teach the child healthy strategies to cope with stress and discomfort, when and how to relax, how to disconnect, how to recover from stressful periods and so on. You probably realize that this also means that adults should be as healthy and resilient as possible in order to pass on such things to children. We can conclude that the ultimate protective factor for children is the resilience, the health of the parents.
A psychic that already suffers from traumas is, what we call in psychology, a risk factor. A risk factor is one that predisposes to more trauma, which makes a person vulnerable. An already shaken psychic is at risk because there is less inner strength to cope with adverse events. It’s like adding bricks on a table that already holds dozens of other brikcs and has a broken leg.
During childhood, resilience is all about how much the parent is able to take care of the emotional health of the child, of education, of general health, of building a healthy relationship and exposing the child as little as possible to adverse events. Thus, the child will develop being emotionally balanced, healthy, strong and there is no need to take action in order to increase the discomfort tolerance or other such things. A strong psychic is a healthy one, developed with as much balance as possible, not through forced exposure to discomfort and pain.
For us, adults, resilience is more difficult to attain. Why? Due to the fact that we need to look into our present and the past to see how many protective factors we have and have had, how many risk factors we have and have had and all this to be able to truly understand to what extent we are vulnerable or resistant to traumatic events.
In this case, resilience starts from healing. It is hard to believe that there is an adult without deep wounds left from childhood and generally from the past. Therefore, it is necessary to start healing first. This can be done with the help of a specialist. Going alone therough the deep wounds left by the past can be a dangerous ride. We cannot “operate” ourselves and we do not know how to do it. There is a need for a suitable specialist with whom we can gradually regain our emotional health. As healing occurs we become stronger, more stable, we have more “mental space” to find new strategies to adapt to stress and recover better and faster from adverse events.
A protective factor that you cand control, as an adult, is taking care of your physical health. Sleep, healthy eating, sports are protective elements that contribute to maintaining a general well-being but also to maintaining health. Choosing people that are good for you, with whom you feel relaxed and next to whom you feel that you are charging is another important factor of protection. As it is good for children to have healthy relationships with caring adults, the same rule is maintained for adults. We, as humans , need relationships, we need healthy relationships where we can feel fulfilled, relaxed and happy.
Beyond aeverything, we all need to enjoy life. Energy comes from pleasure, happiness, enthusiasm. This is why even though we sleep only a few hours one night we can feel energized the next day simply because we like the activity we undertake or we really like the people we spend the day with. Things, activities and people we enjoy charge us with energy and it is important to remember that we need energy in order to survive. That’s why we sleep, that’s why we eat, that’s why we relax, that’s why we’re looking for pleasure and happiness. We cannot survive without energy.
Therefore, in order to build resilience in adult life, you need to start a healing process, to take care to sleep long enough,to properly nourish yourself, make sport as much as possible, keep relationships as fulfilling as possible and to do whatever you enjoy doing. If you do these things, even if you are going through difficult and stressful times, it will all become easier. And if you find yourself in a situation where you are unable to create relationships that are satisfactory to you or you are unable to find things, places that will satisfy you despite multiple attempts, then it is quite clear that the specialized intervention of a psychologist is needed.