Building Resiliency Part I

Resiliency is the ability to bounce back after a difficult emotion, event, thought, or experience. Resiliency comes in many forms because we are a product of several key systems operating simultaneously – emotional, physical, sensory, cognitive. We take it for granted when it is present yet know all too well when it is not accessible to us or someone else. So, where does resiliency come from?

To some degree resiliency is tied to a person’s temperament. Recent research says temperament is rooted in our level of reactivity to stimuli, whether internal or external, and is detectable within a few minutes of birth.

But it is not temperament alone that dictates a person’s resiliency – personality plays a huge role and that is developed over time based on a combination of genetics, experience, learned behavior, family systems, and environment.

Emotions play an enormous role as well in determining how resilient one is – and that is determined by a dance between physiological factors such as biochemistry and sensory regulatory issues, as well as learned through experience, environment, family systems and more.

Resilient people tend to have strong executive functioning skills. They are able to preview a situation before it happens and predict possible solutions both before and when something goes awry. Executive functioning is also the seat of self-monitoring (how am I doing?), causal relationships (if this happens or I do this, what are the possible outcomes?), evaluations of self, a situation, and one’s environment (this is not a good situation for me because…)

Lastly, modeling and support have a significant influence on a person’s resiliency – how those around them react to distress, difficulty, trauma, disappointment, or displeasure and the degree to which a person receives guidance and support in handling their own distress, difficulty, trauma, disappointment, or displeasure.

Given that one’s resiliency ~ their ability to self-manage and re-regulate after a difficult experience ~ is both innate and learned, the important question then becomes how do we help those who are weak in this area to become stronger? In Part II we will examine what meta-skills and coping mechanisms help a person be resilient, and conversely what meta-skills and coping mechanisms are lacking when someone is unable to recover. In the meantime, I encourage you to reflect on your own resiliency skills, recognizing that they vary among systems (emotional, physical, sensory, behavioral, etc.) and are vulnerable to such factors as timing, stress level, sleep, diet, etc. Then begin to play detective on yourself, your loved one, or client to begin individually profiling their resiliency capabilities. As we move forward in this discussion, my hope is that you will find added insight into your and your loved one’s resiliency and how to best support and foster its presence, strength and stability. To be continued…..