In simplistic terms Emotional Resilience is the ability to adapt to stressful situations, personal crises or change (unexpected, traumatic or undesired).
Well over a decade ago, Hara Estroff Marano, Editor-at-Large for Psychology Today, wrote in an article “The Art of Resilience” in which she identified 'ten traits' of emotionally resilient individuals.
In summary these were;
1. They know their boundaries. Resilient people understand that there is a separation between who they are at their core and the cause of their temporary suffering.
2. They keep good company. Resilient people tend to seek out and surround themselves with other resilient people, whether just for fun or when there’s a need for support.
3. They cultivate self-awareness. The self-aware are good at listening to the subtle cues their body and their mood are sending.
4. They practice acceptance. Pain is painful, stress is stressful, and healing takes time. When we're in it, we want the pain to go away. When we're outside it, we want to take away the pain of those who we see suffering. Yet resilient people understand that stress/pain is a part of living that ebbs and flows.
5. They’re willing to sit in silence. Being in the presence of the moment without judgment or avoidance - a practice we'd now think of as mindfulness.
6. They don’t have to have all the answers. They find strength in knowing that it's okay to not have it all figured out right now and trusting that we will gradually find peace and knowing when our mind-body-soul is ready
7. They have a menu of self-care habits. They have a mental list (perhaps even a physical list) of good habits that support them when they need it most.
8. They enlist their team. The most resilient among us know how to reach out for help.
9. They consider the possibilities. We can train ourselves to ask which parts of our current story are permanent and which can possibly change. Can this situation be looked at in a different way that I haven't been considering?
10. They get out of their head. When we're in the midst of stress and overwhelm, our thoughts can swirl with dizzying speed and disconnectedness. We can find reprieve by getting the thoughts out of our head and onto our paper. As Dr. James Pennebaker wrote in his book Writing to Heal, “People who engage in expressive writing report feeling happier and less negative than before writing
These seem to sound aspirational, attitudinal and behavioural approaches - ones we can cultivate in our own lives.
Edith Grotberg provided us with another way of thinking about the issue of resilience.
She took a I Have, I Can and I Am approach to the question. Her researches and surveys guided her to define these 15 attributes, beliefs and attitudes that served for the development of resilience
I HAVE …
People around me I trust and who love me, no matter what
People who set limits for me ….
People who show me how to do things..
People who want me to learn to do things on my own.
People who help me …
A person people can like and love.
Glad to do nice things for others and show my concern.
Respectful of myself and others.
Willing to be responsible for what I do.
Sure things will be all right.
I CAN ...
Talk to others about things that frighten or bother me
Find ways to solve problems that I face.
Control myself when…
Figure out when it is a good time to talk or act…
Find someone to help me when I need it.
These can be summarised as:-
I HAVE - Love/Trust, Boundaries, Role Models, Initiative, Advocates
I AM - Self Worth, Empathy, Respect, Responsibility, Confidence
I CAN - Communicate, Think, Be aware of my Emotions, Make Decisions, Share
All of which hints at the notion that those who are unable to develop emotional resilience may be lacking in one or more of the above 'internal', social, emotional or environmental 'attributes'.
Those who have not had the benefit of being in and within supportive or positive relationships or have not developed any meaningful understanding of their own self and self-worth will, it could be argued, lack some degree of emotional flexibility.
Restoring emotional balance; supporting the development of resilience has mental, physical, emotional and spiritual components.
“I am, I have, I Can: What Families Worldwide Taught Us About Resilience” by Edith Grotberg. “Reaching Today’s Youth”, vol.2, Issue 3, p. 37, Spring 1998
Dr Alan Jones PhD, FRSA