What a year 2020 has been so far. On collective and individual level; we had to deal with many challenges. Both positive as negative, although many will focus on the latter and experience difficulties to bounce back. Hence, I asked friends of mine, who also are skilled helpers, to share their perspectives regarding resilience.
The Skilled Helpers Collaborative
The Skilled Helpers Collaborative is a new initiative aiming to bring meaningful content to you. Various skilled helpers from different backgrounds sharing their perspectives regarding a specific topic. Today’s collaborative article is about resilience.
Learning resilience through flowing water
By Rika Cossey
Stages of development
Resilience is … yes, what is resilience actually?
Let me go back for a moment and tell you a story.
A few months ago my family and I bought a property which partially consists of cleared forest land. This forest land is not a pretty sight. I’m not there very often because I don’t like seeing this seemingly bare land. On that land, there is also a natural pond.
If you have ever been to a property that has previously been logged, you might be able to imagine what that pond looks like. It’s overgrown, sluggish and definitely not a place you want to sit and read a book on summer days. It’s more the kind of place you avoid.
And yet, that pond fascinates me because it’s perfectly adapted to its current stage of life. There is that kind of grass that grows in wetlands and it covers most of the water’s surface. There are bugs and insects circling around the air. And there is a rather foul smell that tells me that something is rotting.
Even though it seems stagnant, it’s full of movement. It changes, adapts not only to the seasons but to the surrounding nature as well. It moves through stages of life and being. Every stage has a function
And that is resilience to me!
Resilience in nature
I see resilience in many parts of nature. May it be the pond with it’s changing composition, the fungi on the tree stumps next to it or an apple tree which produces apples even though its trunk is almost completely hollow. I see resilience in my chickens who forget about their last fox attack and venture through the garden. And I see resilience in my children who hug me even when I’m mad at them.
Sometimes I hear that resilience is the same as just pushing on with life. People tell me what had happened in their lives and they end with: ‘well, there is nothing I can do about it’ and they move on. While I sometimes admire that attitude, I also see the flipside. These people are also the ones who will come back to me – sometimes weeks, months or even years later – and still wrestle with the same events from the past. It wasn’t all in the past as they had claimed previously. No, it’s more present than ever.
And that attitude, the kind of just pushing along, is what can get in the way of developing true resilience in us human beings. Because, the difference between us, humans, and (almost) any other form of being on our planet is that we claim to (want to) ‘learn from the past’. However, we can only develop resilience in our world if we can truly forgive – sometimes ourselves, sometimes others, and sometimes we need to forgive the world at large.
Resilience through flow
I know that forgiveness is easier said than done. There is no magic formula that can be applied to forgiveness, no mantra to be said, no meditation to be performed. Forgiveness is an act of letting go. And that looks different for all of us.
Maybe it helps to think about events in our lives as water. Events come and go in the same way as water changes. Sometimes events stay with us longer and in some instances, we cling onto them longer than needed and they can choke us. However, when viewing events as water, it’s much easier to let events pass rather than to force them to stay. No one can hold on to clean water for a long period of time. Yes, we can build basins or pools but, over time, that water will rot or evaporate and the basin might erode and allow the water to escape. Water will always find its way and it will refuse to stay in a particular form.
The best way to deal with water is to allow it to flow.
And the same should be applied to life events. Events and our interpretation of what happened can choke us if we hold onto them. We need to learn to let them flow, flow through us and towards a different state. Being able to view events as water which is non-containable and in constant movement, makes it easier to move on. It makes it easier to let go and not be burdened by the past.
And that is why I admire our natural pond. I don’t know what it looked like before the trees were cut down. I can only imagine that it was a place for animals to drink and breed. Today’s covering with swamp grass is yet another form of its existence and it’s a perfectly adapted one at that.
For me, that is what resilience is: flowing through stages of life without resistance and judgement. What has been can’t be changed and the next event is still to come. The pond is in the here and now – and so am I.
By Sujit Gogoi
Resilience is the inner power we all have inside ourselves to overcome any challenges or adversities in life. It is our ability to bounce back from that job loss, that financial crises, failed relationships, loss of loved ones, illnesses, trauma, and so on.
Resilience can be at different levels such as Mental , Physical & Emotional.
Mentally resilient person can face uncertainty, with optimism & welcome challenges. They are more calm and hard to be shaken by any destructive negative thoughts. Physical resilience is the ability of our body to recover from any physical illnesses or injuries. People who are emotional resilient are more aware of what they are feeling and deal with it effectively. They respond to situations in a more matured way instead of reacting to it.
Life throws at us different obstacles and challenges at various points in our life. Resilience helps us to get easily overcome from it, but lack of it can get us overwhelm and we might tend to give up. Giving up is not the option I would want you to choose ofcourse. Life’s Challenges or adversities are something that is out of our control, but preparing ourselves before any of that
occurs is in our control. Well, you might ask why prepare for something that has not happened yet? I would say expecting something good to happen is great but also preparing ourselves for worse situation is the smartest thing we can do so that when it occurs, we are in a better position to handle it.
Being denial of any negative situations seems easy and most of us sometimes choose destructive coping mechanisms. But we have to keep in mind that running away from situations can do more harm than good. So it is wise to learn to deal with difficult situations keeping in mind that once we overcome, which we obviously will if we are persistent enough, we will become more stronger than we used to be.
So the tools which helped me to become more resilient and it can help you too if you so choose to adopt. They are:
● Building a strong self-image . Once you based your self-esteem on the basis of who you really are instead of what you think you are is the more powerful way to become resilience.
● Meditation . Creating meditation a habit will help you to be more aware about yourself and will help you to respond effectively to situations.
● Journaling . Putting your thoughts on a paper will help you to declutter your mind and you will be able to see the situations more objectively.
● Being Open . Instead of judging situations as good or bad, welcome every situation and try to see it from a perspective of learning and growth. Ask yourself, “what I can take away from this particular situation?”
I hope these techniques will help you to become more resilient in the coming year.
BECOME RESILIENT: How to mentally configure the three basic human needs of safety, satisfaction, and connectedness
By Mathias Sager
Trinity warrior III. (M. Sager, 2020, Acrylic on canvas, 100 x 100 cm).
“Resilience is a process reﬂecting positive adaptation in the face of adversity” [1, p. 1]. What adversity means to different people depends on individual, socio-cultural, and contextual circumstances.
The Big Five or five-factor personality assessment model (FFM) was found to be able to depict the concept of resiliency as a personality aspect as accurately as specific resiliency measurement tools . Personality traits described and assessed with the five-factor model  consist of five mostly independent personality trait dimensions, i.e.,
- neuroticism, and
- openness to experience .
A resilient personality is characterized by high scores on the FFM dimensions of extraversion, conscientiousness, agreeableness, and openness to experience, and low scores in neuroticism . Openness to experience seems to be particularly important; it should be seen as’ openness to cultural diversity’ too , including the ability to regulate one’s emotions  and to avoid extensive sensation seeking, which, for example, bears the risk of substance abuse . Equipped with such personal abilities, the rapid (global) changes in our times  caused by ever novel, complex, and changing socio-economical, environmental, technological, and health-related factors  can be met with higher resilience.
Other psychological concepts related to coping with adversity are the so-called ‘tolerance for ambiguity’ and ‘tolerance for uncertainty’ measures. These abilities are closely linked to mindfulness. For example, people educated in open-mindedness and who have learned to tolerate ambiguity can better persevere in their tolerance even in situations of insecurity and danger . In that context, hope as related to resilience is enabling individuals to imagine a better future and to endure the present despite the uncertainty for such an achievement . However, it’s not done with hope alone. A strong belief in and an identification with the possibility of achievement are the drivers for the work ethic that required for the realization of the hope. That way, in a first step, the promotion of hope might be a useful approach to reduce uncertainty intolerance and consequently to increase the tolerance for ambiguity for a more open-mindedness that leaves room for thoughtful and empathic decisions that lead to work towards desired and desirable outcomes.
Yes, a major outcome of resilience is empathy. It’s not threats themselves, but how people can resiliently respond to them. If there is no openness to decipher ambiguous, uncertain information, one risks to take the shortcut of, for example, stereotyping and promote black-and-white thinking that is further hindering an open mindset. A vicious spiral, indeed!
Maslow (1968) made the point that we are oriented toward either growth or safety in our everyday lives and that a growth orientation is more favorable for psychological health and well-being . When self-protection (needs) get reduced, self-awareness can arise and facilitate the appreciation of multiple possibilities in situations, which might be the stage of personal development where tolerance for ambiguity as the capacity to accept paradoxes starts to become feasible . Systems of mass conformity, authoritarianism, and nationalism/racism (as well as an emotional attachment to materialism in general) are offered as a means for safety, unfortunately at the cost of growth possibilities through autonomy, creativity, and the use of reason.
Unfortunately, “dealing with ambiguity, respectively the ability to cope with adversity (resilience) is seldom taught, but individuals striving for higher qualities tend to understand that uncertainty is the gateway to opportunity” [14, p. 30]. Therefore, societies should prepare the next generation for life, and it will be crucial how we instill hope and support our children to live constructively with uncertainties while retaining a high tolerance for ambiguity and open-mindedness as required to be truly resilient and find the solutions sought for the benefit of all .
Practically spoken, to get more resilient, one needs to be ready to adapt her/his belief system. Unfortunately, our ‘stable identity’ obsessed ego causes us to not like change. Nevertheless, as long as there is a fear of loss, there will always be defense mechanisms that hamper open-mindedness, and as a result, resilience too. There is good news, though, to adopt a resilient belief system, the three basic human needs of (1) safety, (2) satisfaction, and (3) connectedness don’t need to be abandoned, while it is essential to think about their socio-temporal ‘configuration’, which I call Awareness Intelligence:
- Access your spiritual source, your intuition, free from social conditioning, and as close to the source of life that has brought you here. You are part of the intelligent universe independent of your upbringing; what else could be safer.
- Meet others in the here and now openly, without past judgments and future expectations. Such non-transactional and unconditional love brings the highest satisfaction.
- Expand from separateness to wholeness. The future isn’t about physical survival as long as possible; it is about meaning and connecting to the whole humanity (even future generations) and our soul during a lifetime. With such a connectedness, future worries dissolve.
Resources article – Mathias Sager:
 Kelly, Y., Fitzgerald, A., & Dooley, B. (2017). Validation of the Resilience Scale for Adolescents (READ) in Ireland: a multi-group analysis. International Journal Of Methods In Psychiatric Research, 26(2).
 Waaktaar, T., & Torgersen, S. (2010). How resilient are resilience scales? The Big Five scales outperform resilience scales in predicting adjustment in adolescents. Scandinavian Journal Of Psychology, 51(2), 157-163.
 Howell, G. T., & Zelenski, J. M. (2017). Personality self-concept affects processing of trait adjectives in the self-reference memory paradigm. Journal of Research in Personality, 66, 1- 13.
 McCrea, R. R., & Costa, P. T. (1987). Validation of the five-factor model of personality across instruments and observers. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 52, 81–90.
 Lazaridou, A., & Beka, A. (2015). Personality and resilience characteristics of Greek primary school principals. Educational Management Administration & Leadership, 43(5), 772-791.
 Morizot, J. (2014). Construct Validity of Adolescents’ Self-Reported Big Five Personality Traits: Importance of Conceptual Breadth and Initial Validation of a Short Measure. Assessment, 21(5), 580-606.
 Shaw, P. s. (2016). Commentary: Mapping the young, resilient brain -reflections on Burt et al. (2016). Journal Of Child Psychology & Psychiatry, 57(12), 1465-1466.
 Brendel, W. )., Hankerson, S. )., Byun, S. )., & Cunningham, B. ). (2016). Cultivating leadership Dharma: Measuring the impact of regular mindfulness practice on creativity, resilience, tolerance for ambiguity, anxiety and stress. Journal Of Management Development, 35(8), 1056-1078.
 Herman, J. L., Stevens, M. J., Bird, A., Mendenhall, M., & Oddou, G. (2010). The tolerance for ambiguity scale: Towards a more refined measure for international management research. International Journal Of Intercultural Relations, 34(1), 58-65.
 Bright, L. K., & Mahdi, G. S. (2012). U.S./Arab Reflections on Our Tolerance for Ambiguity. Adult Learning, 23(2), 86-89.
 Wilson, M. J., & Arvanitakis, J. (2013). The Resilience Complex. M/C Journal, 16(5), 17.
 Maslow, A. H. (1968). Toward a Psychology of Being. New York: Van Nostrand Reinhold.
 Hartman, D., & Zimberoff, D. (2008). Higher Stages of Human Development. Journal Of Heart- Centered Therapies, 11(2), 3-95.
 Shullman, S. L., & White, R. P. (2012). Build Leadership’s Tolerance for Ambiguity. Chief Learning Officer, 11(10), 30-33.
 Einwanger, J. (2014). Wie riskant ist Sicherheit? (German). Pädiatrie & Pädologie, 49(4), 33.
Great collaborative initiative. It is helpful to see shed light on this important topic from different angles, while recognizing common patterns and approaches. Looking forward to reading more.
Thanks for being a part of it, dear Mathias. Happy Holidays! XxX
what a beautiful post — wishing you & yours a lovely season & wonderful 2021, dear Patty 🙂
Thanks for the compliment! And of course the same wishes for you and your beloved (furry) ones, dear da-AL ! Sending a big hug across the big pond. XxX