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Here in a few months, once we’re on the other side of the CoV-19 curve, I think resilience will be a buzzword. In some circles it already is.
I used to think that resilience meant getting back on your horse after it bucked you off - a Tubthumping “you’re never going to keep me down” mentality. But now I think that version of resilience is just an attempt at pulling yourself up by your bootstraps.
Cowboy metaphors aside, true resilience has more to do with lament and imagination than it does with returning to a state of being. If resilience is just about getting back to normal, then it’s really just a form of dissociation. Calamity, trauma, pandemics - they change things. To pretend otherwise, well that just ain’t right.
The other day, a classmate defined resilience as the preservation of imagination in the face of adversity. He said that true resilience has a high capacity for beauty. I love this understanding of resilience. It does not seek to minimize or nullify what has taken place, but from the place of greatest loss acts creatively to bring about something new. I think the only way that is possible is through lament and mourning. The laughter of one who has lost much carries more weight.
I had another classmate say that resilience requires we. However, resilience is often understood as a self-contained personality trait - some people have more than others. But perhaps true resilience has more to do with an ability to ask for help - to admit our needs. Understanding resilience as relational invokes the network effect. A network of resilient people together create something greater than their total.
Resilience is often solely understood in terms of external adversity. It’s something you do when life keeps knocking you down. However, I think admitting one’s own faults and working towards something different is also a form of resilience. Doing so is perhaps more difficult than just engaging the external adversities of life. After all, we are usually our own greatest critics. It takes tremendous kindness to not define ourselves in terms of our failures.
Resilience is more like muscle fiber than a rubber band, growing stronger when torn, not just bouncing back to it’s original shape.
Trauma impacts a community. Resilience requires a community.
If it’s just about returning to normal, we’re dissociating.
1. Video - 1m16s of perspective. Sometimes I forget volcanos are a thing.
2. Podcast - What do trauma, Harry Potter, and existential vulnerability all have in common? They’re all found in this episode of Between Us: A Psychotherapist Podcast titled Finitude.