Resilience is a circular bounce. A person returns to the same state of being before an experience. But the person is different. Transformed.
What's the first thing you think when you hear "resilience"? I bet it goes something along the lines of being able to bounce back from a trying or traumatic experience. I would also say you probably assume the person goes back to the same state of being as before the event. You're not wrong, but you're not exactly right.
Resilience is a circular bounce
Resilience is the idea of bending under stress and then coming back to who you were before. But that idea implies that you're the same as when you never had the experience.
Resilience is more of a circular bounce. A person returns to the same state of being before an experience. But the person learns from the situation and is different. Transformed.
You can never go back to being who you were before an experience.
Here's an example:
I'm living my life, and then someone I love dies. Death is the event. Loss is the trauma. I undergo grief, depression, guilt, and a whole bunch of other emotions. Then one day, I start bouncing back. I start my journey of resilience.
OK, easy to follow. When I return to a functioning state, say where I'm not crying all the time or I'm able to go to work, you'll say I've rebounded. That I'm resilient. But the truth is the person I am now, after the experience, is not the same person I was before the experience.
Never go back
Experiences change us. They shift our way of thinking about the world, how we see things, how we interact with others. You can never go back to being who you were before an experience. Things in your psyche change. Your outlook on life is different. You're transformed.
Before my grief I used to enjoy talking to people. During my grief, I avoided people. Now, coming out of grief, I talk to people but in a different way. I have a different understanding of what life means. What it is to be alive. I can seem to be as easy-going and talkative as I was before, but my conversations will be different because I'm different. My understanding of life, of the universe, has shifted from what it was before.
Resilience is an internal shift
Resilience is a shift of how you interact with your environment. It's not so much about your actions as it is about your thinking and emotions.
After all, you've been through an experience that most people wouldn't want or be able to handle if they had to. You've gained insight and knowledge that they don't have. So you need to re-balance yourself, re-orientate yourself. You will never interact with others the same way you did before the experience. Chances are, you wouldn't want to anyway.
People are resilient. Traumas like death or injury are part of the human experience. We have the built-in capacity, the potential, to work through the trauma and recover. That's resilience. That's transformation.
Original first appeared in Depression Help on Beliefnet.
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