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Defining Resilience

Harry Mills, Ph.D. & Mark Dombeck, Ph.D.

o be resilient means to be able to 'spring back' into shape after being deformed. To be emotionally resilient means to be able to spring back emotionally after suffering through difficult and stressful times in one's life. Stressed people experience a flood of powerful negative emotions which may include anger, anxiety, and depression. Some people remain trapped in these negative emotions long after the stressful events that have caused them have passed. Emotionally resilient people, on the other hand, are quickly able to bounce back to their normal emotional state.

The Resilient Attitude

How do they do it? What is it about emotionally resilient people that makes them more effective at managing stress than non-resilient people? The key difference between the groups appears to be that emotionally resilient people have a specific set of attitudes concerning themselves and their role within the world that motivates and enables them to cope more efficiently and effectively then their non-resilient peers.

Specifically, emotionally resilient people tend to:

  • Have realistic and attainable expectations and goals.
  • Show good judgment and problem-solving skills.
  • Be persistent and determined.
  • Be responsible and thoughtful rather than impulsive.
  • Be effective communicators with good people skills.
  • Learn from past experience so as to not repeat mistakes.
  • Be empathetic toward other people (caring how others around them are feeling).
  • Have a social conscience, (caring about the welfare of others).
  • Feel good about themselves as a person.
  • Feel like they are in control of their lives.
  • Be optimistic rather than pessimistic.

These special beliefs characteristic of resilient people help them to keep proper perspective, and to persist with coping efforts long after less resilient types become demoralized and give up. In order to become a more resilient person, it is necessary to work on cultivating these beliefs and attitudes for your own life.

We'll talk more about how to develop these core attitudes supporting resiliency later in this document. Before we do that, however, it's important to first understand how it is that a set of simple attitudes can exert such a powerful influence over people's emotional life.




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