This week I am continuing with my series of blogs exploring some definitions of well used terms that are often applied to self-esteem and related topics. This week I intend to share some thoughts about resilience.
What is resilience?
Resilience is basically our bounce back factor! No matter how “sorted” a person’s life may appear we all have to deal with life events that are less than positive from time to time. Resilience is the term used to describe how quickly we recover from one of life’s knocks.
The stronger a person’s self-esteem the quicker their bounce back factor is likely to be. A series of negative life events could potentially undermine even the most resilient individuals’ ability to bounce back however the more we understand this phenomena the more able we will be to defend our resilience.
This is a topic I studied as part of my MSc in Applied Positive Psychology and it is truly fascinating. Most people have heard of PTSD and have at least a lay persons understanding of what it means, i.e. it is a stress response that some people experience after a negative life event.
Sometimes this event may be a single traumatic event such as a violent mugging or it can be as a result of repeated or continuous experiences. The most common cases of continuous trauma are seen in two sadly large groupings, war veterans and survivors of childhood abuse.
There is a great deal of research in this area and in more recent years new study has started to look at the less well known response of PTG.
Post Traumatic Growth occurs under the following conditions. After a negative life event the person seems to develop strong coping strategies and may even find a strong drive to contribute in some way to helping others in a similar position. This response will in most cases emerge gradually as the person comes to terms with the life event and may follow on from a period of PTSD. This can be a naturally occurring response in some people.
A particularly powerful example can be read about in the book “Still me” by the late Christopher Reeve. This book details his response to an accident that resulted in him becoming paralysed from the neck down. There is an audio version of this read by Christopher, I recommend you try and get hold of it.
So what makes the difference?
There are two main factors. The first factor emerges when a sense of meaning or purpose is identified by the “victim” of the trauma. An important note here, this is not about becoming grateful about the event although in a few cases that might be true, it is more about finding a way to turn a bad experience into something meaningful.
To state this more clearly, if a parent loses a child in tragic circumstances the grief will still be there even if there is PTG. The parent might put their energy into finding ways to prevent similar things happening to other children however given the choice they would still want their child to have survived.
The second factor relates to how the experience is processed and to thinking strategies. From a Positive Psychology perspective it appears that people with a more optimistic thinking style might process negative experiences in a way more likely to promote resilience than people with a pessimistic thinking style for instance.
Finding meaning and adopting resilient thinking strategies can be developed using NLP techniques, CBT and a number of other approaches. The most important point remains that we can increase our resilience and our bounce back factor.
As with so many things in life this is easier to do when we are not in the middle of a personal tragedy however there is a lot of great work out there helping people move from PTSD to PTG. One particularly impressive body of work is being undertaken by Rick Gray in the USA.
Rick is working with war veterans using V-K Dissociation technique to help reduce PTSD. This work is being monitored clinically and is providing some amazing results. For those of you planning to attend the International NLP Research Conference in July you might want to get along to hear Rick speak. He is an enchanting speaker!
Part of my personal mission is to help others develop their own sense of inner strength by facilitating changes in thinking styles and helping people to connect with their own purpose and meaning.
Two events I have coming up soon are designed specifically with this in mind. The first is our popular one day workshop, “Your Brilliant You!” If you are a regular reader of this blog you will be familiar with this workshop. It is based on my research and aimed at helping people improve their self-esteem and thus their resilience.
Our next workshop is on 21st April and is a fund raiser for Marie Curie Cancer Charity, for more information or to download a free MP3 of two hours taken from an earlier workshop click on the link below.
The second event is our NLP Master Practitioner, running in May. One of our key areas for exploration is finding your life purpose! For more information click on the link below.
Do let me have your thoughts, comments and experience of the bounce back factor. What has worked for you?