“Resilience is the art of navigating torrents” – Boris Cyrulnik
A ‘wonderful adversity’.
Resilience represents both the capacity of an individual to cope with everyday life, but also his or her mental capacity to get back on track, to open up new perspectives and to make a new start. It is therefore a psychological phenomenon which allows one to live through a trauma in such a way that it allows the individual to rebuild, and the emergence of new capacities, rather than a disorganisation of daily life.
Thus, the greater the resilience, the more the impact of painful experiences that may occur is reduced. Each of these experiences will allow the development of resistance tools and adaptation mechanisms, making resilience a dynamic phenomenon.
It is important to note, however, that many people show both signs of resilience and an altered view of the world and their future in the face of certain shocks. It is therefore still important to seek help in the event of significant trauma.
The stages of resilience
People who are resilient generally begin with an inner revolt against adversity, with a determination not to let the situation or problem affect them. This is followed by the establishment of a self- challenge which allows the person to show a strong and enduring face to their surroundings, even though they may feel weak and powerless. There is also a willingness not to see oneself as a victim,
and a decision to take the situation with humour, which allows the trauma to be dedramatised. Finally, resilient people will often express their feelings and channel their emotions through art, sport or spirituality.
Developing and living resilience in everyday life
Resilience is not a gene; everyone is capable of developing the ability to cope with difficult events. While some people may have had more constructive experiences in childhood or have a more favourable character, we are all the actors of our personal history, which is not fixed in time. In short, whether through guided talk and reflection in therapy or by cultivating certain principles in our daily lives, we are all capable of developing our capacity for resilience.
(1) Looking for the positive
Keeping track of daily successes and achievements, no matter how small, is a good way to focus on the positive and stay optimistic. The aim here is not to erase the negative, but to learn to live with the scars, understanding that they are part of us, but do not define us. Indeed, there are always alternatives and possible solutions, hence the importance of always trying to see the good side of things. Finally, it is about living with our experiences, whether they are good or bad, while having the ability to put things into perspective when necessary.
(2) Strengthening self-esteem
Acknowledging our achievements, taking the time to encourage and congratulate ourselves on all the little successes is a first step in improving our self-esteem. The key is to trust yourself and learn to listen to the little voice in your head, keeping in mind that there are times to let go and times to regain strength and move forward. Simply having compassion for ourselves or cultivating a positive self-image is enough to regain control of our choices and decisions at any given time. In the same way, always being present after an ordeal is already a victory in itself.
(3) Become a master of your emotions
It is quite possible to learn to manage and regulate your emotions, so that you do not lose control and keep your temper in all situations. Whether through breathing exercises, meditation, yoga or sport, the aim is to channel these emotions and thus understand and control them, without fighting the feelings that invade us.
(4) Accepting change
There is an expression in French that says that sometimes it is better to “step back in order to jump forward”, and therefore learn to abandon certain things to make room for new perspectives, and thus adopt a different approach to find better solutions. Being flexible in the face of change is therefore an essential quality for moving forward, and knowing how to seize opportunities when they arise.
(5) Taking care of yourself physically and mentally
Here we can make an inventory of all the resources that are easy to access in the event of difficult times, with a list of all the people, practices and activities that can bring comfort, motivation or even appeasement. Talking to friends and family, playing sports, practising an artistic activity or getting a massage are all ways of recharging your batteries and keeping your mind occupied so that you don’t have to think about things.
Studies also show that volunteering, and therefore giving support, helps to take our minds off our problems and dispel the feeling of being alone with our hardships. However, it is possible to help but also to be helped when events become unbearable and professional help is indispensable.
(6) Surround yourself well
Maintaining social links and not isolating oneself is essential to be able to find support in case of difficulty. However, it is important to surround yourself with positive people who can both encourage you and teach you new things. If we know that we are supported in our decisions and in our most unbearable moments, we already have an internal security base.
(7) Accepting the way things are
Being resilient also involves accepting that there is good and bad and identifying what is a hardship, so that we can deal with it as it is, without minimising or denying it. Thus, it is essential to accept the reality, without focusing on the negative aspect, and thus learn to live with it but also to be able to react and improve one’s well-being.
Setting achievable short-term goals, identifying the positive without denying the negative, giving oneself the tools to build one’s own psychological and physical well-being, and accepting the possibility of change and evolution are therefore all points that define a resilient person.