What does resilience mean? Based on a Tweet conversation with NAMI

Here is where my thoughts on this subject began. There was a Tweet chat with NAMI Massachusetts and I saw this statement:

NAMIMass A1: It largely depends on the resiliency of the child/adolescent. Some are more or less resilient to #traumatic #stress #mhsm

Now at this point I didn’t know what resiliency was in psychology just my own thought on the word. So I said that I didn’t know how I felt that statement when it came to children. They replied:

NAMI Massachusetts ‏ @NAMIMass @CimmerianInk Some pple r more resilient 2 #stress of any kind incl#trauma. Resiliency starts in childhood #mhsm

I than asked if a child developing DID was a bad reaction to trauma. They said:

NAMI Massachusetts ‏ @NAMIMass @CimmerianInk It is not a question of good vs bad, it’s more of just a reaction to the trauma

That exchange got me thinking and I’m curious to know what all of you think about resiliency.

In my mind I was kind of offended I think. I hadn’t looked up the word in relation to psychology yet but I think just having someone say that some kids are more resilient than others made me feel bad.

I was thinking, what gives you the right to call one child more resilient than another just because they react differently to trauma? I was thinking that it made it sound like those kids are better than others. Like reacting “badly” makes a child a weak person.

I went to Psych Central just to get the explanation of resiliency in plain terms. They said:

Resilience is the process of adapting well in the face of adversity,trauma, tragedy, threats, or even significant sources of stress — such as family and relationship problems, serious health problems, or workplace and financial stressors. It means “bouncing back” from difficult experiences.

Research has shown that resilience is ordinary, not extraordinary. People commonly demonstrate resilience. One example is the response of many Americans to the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks and individuals’ efforts to rebuild their lives.

Being resilient does not mean that a person doesn’t experience difficulty or distress. Emotional pain and sadness are common in people who have suffered major adversity or trauma in their lives. In fact, the road to resilience is likely to involve considerable emotional distress.

Resilience is not a trait that people either have or do not have. It involves behaviors, thoughts, and actions that can be learned and developed in anyone.

I still wasn’t satisfied and then I read what they say contributes to resiliency:

A combination of factors contributes to resilience. Many studies show that the primary factor in resilience is having caring and supportive relationships within and outside the family. Relationships that create love and trust, provide role models, and offer encouragement and reassurance help bolster a person’s resilience.

Several additional factors are associated with resilience, including:

  • The capacity to make realistic plans and take steps to carry them out
  • A positive view of yourself and confidence in your strengths and abilities
  • Skills in communication and problem solving
  • The capacity to manage strong feelings and impulses

All of these are factors that people can develop in themselves.”

I thought about abused kids, whether it was physical or sexual or verbal, whatever and I realized why resiliency would be an issue for them.

On the other hand, I wonder if a child developing DID shows a kind of resiliency? To come up with a way within yourself to deal with trauma so you can survive…isn’t that something?

Or, am I wrong and it’s the opposite of resiliency?

What do you guys think?


About CimmarianInk

Abuse Survivor Diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder PTSD and Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID) also known as Multiple Personalities
This entry was posted in abuse, Alters, Child Abuse, Child Molestation, depersonalization, derealization, DID, dissociation, dissociative identity disorder, Incest, Multiple Personalities and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

19 Responses to What does resilience mean? Based on a Tweet conversation with NAMI

  1. Vivid says:

    I think you’re right: DID is the ultimate in childhood resiliency.

    My therapist once told me of a conference he’d been to, wherein the facilitator describes the clients of trauma therapists as “geniuses”. His point was that whatever coping mechanisms are used – dissociation in particular – are incredibly clever ways of coping with what is basically insurmountable pain.

    I find myself inclined to agree with this; dissociation is a remarkable psychological device. It may screw with our minds as adults, but it saves us as children.

    Surely the ultimate in coping is, almost by definition, resilience.

    I find myself uncomfortable with NAMI’s take on this. I think I can see what they’re trying to get at, but they’re phrasing it completely undiplomatically, and frankly their tweets border on offensive in my view.

    Kudos to you for calling them out on it 🙂

    Love and (((hugs))) to you, CI.

    Take care

    Viv x

    • CimmarianInk says:

      I agree with you Viv.
      The trouble in dissociation comes to us as adults but as you said, when we were kids it was very smart and creative. And yes, isn’t that resilience?

  2. Freasha1964 says:

    Sounds like resilience can be fostered by the parents…is what I am interpreting…
    I bet a bunch that it has an inborn origin in part, as well.

    Don’t feel bad about this, CI. You -nobody, really- can’t win, really. Or is it a win- win? We aren’t here to compare ourselves to others and then feel inferior. Right?

    • CimmarianInk says:

      Hi Freasha,

      Yes according to the Psych Central article the way you’re brought up plays into it quite a bit; the support you have etc. I can see why abuse victims wouldn’t be resilient in that sense but I still think finding a way to survive without support is very resilient.

      And no, comparisons never help. 🙂

  3. castorgirl says:

    Hi CI,

    When I first came across the research on resilience, I got really confused. I thought of the term similar to how you initially thought of it – as another indication that I was weak. I started doing comparisons with other peoples situations, and beating myself up for how well people like Elizabeth Smart seemed to cope with her years of abuse.

    But then, I saw this really interesting documentary from Britain about resilience, and it helped to clarify how you develop resilience. The bit I remember the most, is how they looked at two single mother families… in one family, the children were all struggling with various issues, including depression; while in stark contrast, the other family had images of the young boy playing with a ball out in the street, running around, and genuinely laughing. Both families were receiving the same amount of money, housing, and lived in the same area. The only difference was the bond between the children, and their parents. The boy who played in the street could run home from school and tell his mother anything… the depressed child felt that they had to protect their mother.

    This helped me to put the experiences of Elizabeth Smart into context… she was abducted when she was 14. I know we can’t be sure, but she seems to have come from a healthy, happy family. So, for 14 years, she had developed this solid basis of her self worth, coping skills, and had positive memories to elicit during the dark times of her capture.

    You and I didn’t have that solid basis from which to get those positive messages… we weren’t given a safety net to fall back on when things got rough, and that is what helps to build resilience.

    It’s really easy to use these sorts of terms as a way to beat ourselves up, or to create confusion… I’m really proud of you for posing questions to NAMI, and for investigating it further… That alone shows your strength, curiosity, and bodes well for your healing…

    The other thing to remember, is that resilience can be developed in adults – it’s never too late 🙂

    Take care,

    • CimmarianInk says:

      Very good points CG. I think it just burns me that parents can do so much damage. It’s another area that I had no control in.
      The article agreed with you that resilience can be learned. I wonder how one does that?

      • castorgirl says:

        Resilience can be developed through learning coping skills, by surrounding ourselves with people who will support us, by learning from our errors (without beating ourselves up about them), etc. Basically, by creating the environment that we missed out on as children… You’re learning it as you heal… you’re already doing it 🙂

      • CimmarianInk says:

        They need to have classes. 🙂

  4. Alice says:

    It does seem offensive when you read it without the words explanation, it’s really good that you spoke up about it.
    I think you must be resillient, you’ve been through so much and you’re still here, not only that but you had to build your own resillience.

    x x

  5. meredith says:

    I think of being considered “resilient” as a burden, at times. The word infers that I can bounce back, and sometimes this is true. However, the more resilience I demonstrated as the years progressed, the less freedom I felt to not be resilient.

    Some parts of me were incredibly resilient. They also fortified their resilience with denial in order to remain resilient. I think it’s interesting that the word, when broken down, looks like “re-silent” to me. I know that part of my resilience comes from learning to keep my own counsel. How long can this concept last, realistically? It’s my own perception distortion, but I would bet that many people share it. I’m aware I always believe, somewhere, that as long as I keep my confusion to myself I’m resilient… ah, ha-ha. right.

    I’m so sick of ‘resilience’ being reduced to a cartoonish pop psych term that it doesn’t work for me. It give the impression that my psyche is so plastic it can sustain any impact, any time, anywhere. I’ve had to teach myself that this isn’t true. It’s what was expected of me, but it isn’t true, and I don’t have to pretend that it is.

    I’m glad you’re such a thorough investigator. This was a great post to take to heart and think about. Thanks for writing it out. I put it on the fridge.

    • CimmarianInk says:

      You did!? I feel like a kid who had a good assignment in school and it got posted! 😉

      I hear you on this. It’s like if you’re resilient you can’t take it back and fall apart ever. I don’t think resilient should mean that you never crack. Perhaps a person may take more before they crack but no one just handles everything with aplomb (whoa haven’t used that word in a sentence before). And I still felt like saying someone was resilient was a compliment, which automatically made not being their concept of resilient, not a compliment.

      I hate psycho babble sometimes. It just doesn’t fully cover everyone’s experiences.

  6. meredith says:

    Well, psycho babble is just that: babble. I think too many people fail to question, think, research, and look up words in the dictionary… not just in terms of psychology, but about most things. In terms of psychology, some of “pop” comes out of the sixties, when seeing a therapist was elite, fashionable, and an eye-roller to the general public. The Bob NewHart Show (which was very funny, by the way), lampooned the absurdity of pop psych, but many people held onto the notion without keeping the INTENT of the show as part of their awareness. The “life is absurd” wave of the sixties and seventies gave other people fuel to fire away at any psychology because… it was absurd. Snoopy on a surfboard and COWABUNGA!–that’s where many minds stay when the discussion of psychology comes to the fore. And, of course, many folks plainly dismiss thinking seriously about the brain… and the heart… and their livers… and anything they can’t see or order “to go”…. so they watch “Dexter,” and suddenly, even Charles Manson is just a scary cartoon of psychopaths.

    Thinking people read, question, wonder, ask others, speak up, look ridiculous, get lost… and as this column shows… inspire discussion about the kind of language we use. We need to wonder more, and assume less. I love reading the blogs here, at WordPress, because so many of them are well-thought and inspired comments often follow. This helps me, because I continue to re-consider ideas and personal biases as I go forward, each day… and that’s how I learn progressive resilience which, to me, feels authentic. I think some of what others may have seen in me and called “resilient” was actually trigger responses I learned to avoid more harm.

    We need better language!

    • CimmarianInk says:

      I used to watch Bob Newhart when I was a kid! That took me back lol.

      And you’re right, we do need better language. Things are never as pretty as acronyms.

    • CimmarianInk says:

      Actually, wait…maybe it was Newhart, not the Bob Newhart show?

      • meredith says:

        right-o. I just have him as an altogether experience in my mind. Everything I ever saw him do seems so fluid it all just goes from one time to the next era, then the next… I loved all his shows. He’s a great comedian.

      • CimmarianInk says:

        Agreed. I should go back and watch Newhart since I’ve never seen it as an adult. Might be a whole different experience. 🙂
        I don’t think I’ve ever seen the Bob Newhart show though.

      • meredith says:

        The Bob Newhart Show was on in the 70’s, and Bob was a psychiatrist in Chicago. Suzanne Pleshette played his wife. Then. they did Newhart, which took place in New Hampshire. It was a bed and breakfast place… and hysterical. And I loved it. But every once in awhile they did a segment where the Chicago Bob would wake up from a dream and say, “I just had the weirdest dream about owning an inn in New Hampshire…”

        Anyway, it was all very funny, and I’m a big fan of early television comedians. I love watching his old television sketches on Joey Bishop shows… or Carson. He was very funny on Dean Martin.

        Great era. I loved George Carlin, but I would trust my life with Bob Newhart, and I learned a lot about making something funny out of a mess from Bob.

        Okay. TMI.

      • CimmarianInk says:

        Not TMI at all! I really enjoyed reading that because I have fond memories of Bob Newhart and I need all the fond memories I can get. I loved feeling your enthusiasm for him!

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