We’ve all heard about ‘resiliency’, or the ability to quickly bounce back from a challenging situation. But how does resiliency work in the psychological sense?
Psychological Resilience is defined as “an individual’s ability to successfully adapt to life tasks in the face of social disadvantage or highly adverse conditions”; also “the psychological strength to cope with stress and hardship.”
Basically, when you encounter life’s hardships, how do you cope? Are you able to pull from a strength that lives deep inside of you? Or, do you shut down emotionally? Truly resilient people can recover.
What are some traits of emotionally resilient people?
Those with higher levels of resiliency don’t let themselves become absorbed by the challenges they face; instead, they find a way to grow stronger than what attempted to destroy them. They do this through optimism, positivity, and acceptance. They maintain the ability to view failure or challenges as an opportunity for growth. This kind of acceptance is in no way easy, especially depending on the level of the emotional challenge.
Emotional resilience includes accepting the painful feelings and emotions instead of just ignoring them. People who have resiliency trust that in the long run, things will get better; they have the knowledge that this won’t happen immediately, but by pushing through and feeling their authentic emotions as they come, the pain won’t last forever.
Resilient people also keep things in perspective and don’t lose hope in the face of destruction; this is possible only by letting go of the victim mentality. They welcome negative feelings but find a way to grow from them instead of dwelling on them for too long. This positive mentality gives them the ability to view challenges as opportunities for growth and is what really differentiates emotionally resilient people from those who aren’t.
What is the importance of resiliency?
Unfortunately, trauma, stressors, change, and challenges are all unavoidable. But it’s what we do with them that will determine if we’re resilient. Instead of using maladaptive coping skills or heading into severe psychological distress, those with resilience weigh out their other options. When you have the ability to keep fighting, you are more quickly able to get into a better headspace and move on with your life.
We are a product of our environment and our experiences. People with resiliency don’t have an easier life than others, nor do they face fewer challenges, instead they know the healthier way to act upon them. They live by the mantra “if you can’t change it, change the way you think about it.” Those with higher emotional intelligence and resiliency can accept the challenges that life throws at them while figuring out a way to move forward.
One of the many ways that psychologically resilient people are able to move forward is to create meaning from the challenges they’ve faced. This is no easy task but can provide just a glimmer of hope in dark times. This is why so many parents who have lost children to eating disorders, depression, suicide, and many other terrible diseases will create foundations or scholarships in their child’s name.
While life will never be the same, they can create something positive from a truly horrible situation. While their lives will never be the same, the more room they create for resiliency, the less room is left for anxiety, depression and a multitude of other negative feelings.
Resilience is not something that we are inherently born with, as it needs to stem from difficult times in life. Our family of origin and early caregivers can help us learn resiliency, but if you did not learn how to be resilient from your family, you can still become a person with resiliency. We can to look inside of ourselves and create the trait of resiliency. Resilience matters so much because it has the ability to completely alter our journey throughout this life.
If you need help becoming a resilient person, a compassionate therapist can help you develop skills to become someone who can bounce back from the challenges that life throws your way.
Lauren Ross, MA, LPC Intern, LMFT Associate, sees couples, individuals, and adolescents at the Relationship Counseling Center of Austin (RCC Austin). Call her at 512-270-4883, ext. 107, to schedule an appointment. You can also contact her through RCC Austin's Scheduling Page and request her as the therapist you would like to see.