Being Resilient: The Features That Foster Resilience

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Before this course, I had very little and superficial knowledge about resilience but now after studying this course in detail, I understand this concept much better. For me, resilience is the ability bounce back after adverse situations.

In the video, Michael Chandler defines resilient individuals as being made of ‘stainless steel’ whereas those that are not resilient are made of ‘celluloid.’ I find this definition quite misleading and conservative. Dr. Chandler’s statement suggests that resilient individuals are far superior to the non-resilient ones. Also they blame non-resilient individuals for not being tough and strong.

Resilience is a very complex concept and there are a host of determinants of the resilience including biological, psychological and social factors that interact with one another in a unique and complex way to determine the response of individual in stressful situations (Southwick et al., 2014). According to Pietrzak and Southwick (2011), resilience is difficult to specify as a characteristic, process, or product neither we can measure it in the form of present or absent. Instead, it exists on a continuum and present to different degrees across different areas of life. An individual may adapt very well to the work stressors but find it difficult to show resilience in the familial matters (Southwick et al., 2014)

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Resilience is usually considered as a trait of predisposed behavioral pattern but there are a number of protective factors that influences adaptability in case of stressful situations. Garmezy (1985) identified three major categories of these protective factors:

Individual attributes: it includes easygoing temperament, good emotional and self-regulations skills, healthy coping skills. Qouta, El-Sarraj and Punamaki (2001) while studying the impact of mental flexibility on emotional disorders and PTSD found that those children with high mental flexibility were protected form negative consequences of the violent conditions, but cognitive factors like intelligence were mediated the relationship. This indicates that, although personal traits and characteristics are important yet it is difficult to determine which works the best.

Relationships: it includes sharing healthy relationship with parents and elder family members, having a trustworthy and cohesive bonding with the family. The paper of May (2001) make me understand that resilience can be developed by developing coping mechanisms ad strategies to deal with stress. I develop the understanding that families with special needs kids can become resilient which is very crucial for the development and personal strength of the family member at disadvantage. Before a couple has children, they may not be resilient but once they have disabled children, they begin to seek coping strategies on how to treat their children, how to interact with them more, and how to overcome the feeling of helplessness they may have. It showed me that many adults also face tough times that require them to be resilient.

External support: it includes quality of relationship with neighbors, ties at schools and involvement in prosocial activities and organizations. Chris et al. (2002) further demonstrated ina study that strong peer relationships moderate the relationship between family adversity and child externalizing behaviors indicating that strong bonding with friends can act as a protective factor and promote resilience.

Thus it can be concluded that resilience is not a rare trait that develops and emerges under extraordinary conditions, instead, it develop because of our average, conventional and normative resources available in ourselves, our families and in the communities (Masten, 2001). These are the factors that promote resilience in individuals and let them adapt to the new situation amidst of disaster and adversity.

Further, it is also established that a single definition of resilience cannot be applied globally. Resilience is a conditional, inferred, and interpreted from the behavior of the individuals in relation to the environmental circumstances. Resilience should be assessed on the base of an individual’s understanding of their developmental experiences, and their ability to adapt positively (Masten & Obradovic, 2006). Ungar (2008) also suggested that resilience emerges in different forms and intensities depending on the child’s life, culture and context in which the resilience is considered. Thus, when doing cross-cultural comparative researches, the cultural and contextual differences along with the developmental circumstances should be kept in mind.     

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