Family disputes are traumatic. Conflicts among family members involve a tangled web of emotional and legal issues that can be overwhelming. No one is immune to the pain that hammers away at a person’s psychological balance during a divorce; however, some people seem to cope much better than others.
Question – Why do some folks deal with adversity relatively well while others hit an emotional wall and virtually cease to function?
The ability to survive a traumatic situation with limited psychological injury has been described as mental toughness, fortitude, psychological grounding, tenacity, emotional foundation, and a number of other terms. Many of those terms convey an image of an inner quality or a stable trait that resides within the person.
Michael Ungar, director of the Resilience Research Centre at Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia, disagrees with that assessment. Professor Ungar claims that resilience is the key to dealing with trauma and resilience can be learned.
According to Ungar, resilience is the ability to adjust a person’s pattern of behavior in order to properly deal with the stressor at hand. Resilience is an acquired skill that enhances a person’s ability to recognize nervous system arousal (anxiety, anger, impatience, frustration, etc.) created by stress and create an appropriate response. Research indicates that resilient people are much less susceptible to chronic stress and more effective in dealing with day-to-day difficulties.
Taryn Marie Stejskal, founder of the Resilience Leadership Institute in Philadelphia, describes resilience as the ability to face challenge, change and complexity in a positive fashion. Stejskal defines the road map to resilience as including five practices:
- Vulnerability – the foundation of authenticity and empathy
- Productive perseverance – knowing when to pivot
- Connection to ourselves and to others
- Gratiosity – a blend of gratitude and generosity
- Possibility – how we navigate and manage risk.
Bouncing Back To Normal
According to Stejskal, it is not realistic to assume a person will “bounce back” to “normal” after dealing with a traumatic situation because adversity tends to create a “new normal”. Developing resilience enables a person to “bounce forward” instead of back.
Set Up For Success
The benefits of resilience need to be earned. Reading the literature or attending the seminars is a start but it is not enough. Resilience requires attitude and action and application:
- Attitude – decide to investigate “resilience”, consider the five practices
- Action – make some changes in your thinking, your attitude, your practices
- Application – continue to expand the changes that work for you.