The power of resilience
Why are some of us stronger in the head and others weaker? How is it that one tears the smallest problem into a deep hole while the other, like a standing man, defies even the greatest problems in life? Science has interesting answers to this.
Surely you know both characters from your circle of friends and acquaintances. There is the one person who doesn’t need much to plunge them into great stress or even depression. And there is the other, in which the same event does nothing at all. He or she continues on as if nothing were going on. Has the supposedly stronger one just learned how to act better or is he really mentally programmed differently?
In fact, the latter is the case. Psychology has long had an interesting field of activity, which has received increasing attention in recent years due to burnout and the like. We are talking about so-called resilience research.
What does resilience mean?
From a purely physical point of view, resilience describes the tolerance that a system has towards disturbances. This means that the tolerance of the individual towards crises and problems is human.
If this threshold is relatively low, the person is often already through Little things that do not fit into the plan are thrown off the rails and come under massive psychological pressure. If, on the other hand, he has a rather high tolerance threshold, he sees these things as a challenge at best, but without being disturbed by it.
In this case one speaks of a resilient person.
You have surely experienced smaller and larger crises too. A car accident, the end of a relationship, a serious illness or sudden termination of the job. Life is full of such challenges, but everyone handles them differently.
What does science say?
The development of children who had to grow up in sometimes significant crises was examined in more detail using several studies. For example, children who grew up in a war or in poverty, whose parents were mentally ill, who had alcohol problems or who were divorced were examined. These children were often confronted with several such crises at once, which significantly increased their mental vulnerability.
You can imagine what happened to the children. Most of the children (two thirds to be exact) failed miserably in life at first. They got on the wrong track, got themselves alcohol or drug problems, suffered from mental illnesses like depression and showed massive behavioral disorders. They came into conflict with the law and their mortality rate was above average.
The other third of the children, however, which one experienced the same crises, seemed to have found ways and means for themselves to come to terms with the situation and to grow with it. This third later had a permanent job, was not dependent on state aid and was otherwise in excellent health.
When searching for the reason for this riddle, it was found that the behavior of these children was sometimes significantly different from that with difficulties.
The resilient, mentally strong children were mostly perceived by their social environment to be very social, loving, friendly and active, while the other children tended to isolate themselves with their thoughts and remain for themselves. They usually had a close relationship with a caregiver such as a parent or caregiver and thus learned to communicate with others more quickly, which in turn increased their self-esteem and their expectations in life. They believed in themselves and were convinced that they could master their own lives, which enabled them to start their professional and school life optimistically.
But even the less resilient among them had mostly consolidated until the age of 40. Through a more stable partner, school education or a fulfilling job, most of them managed to become more tolerant of life’s crises.
It was concluded from this that bad or even dramatic events in the past can have a massive impact on a person’s development, but do not automatically draw for life, as was often assumed before. On the contrary, it turned out that resilience is something that can be learned.
So if you are not yet so tolerant of problems and crises, make it clear that it does not always have to stay that way. With every crisis, you automatically become stronger and thus more tolerant of the stormy waves that life sometimes offers us.
Resilience research deals with the question of why some people are mentally stronger and master large life crises with flying colors, where weaker ones often break down.
What creates resilience?
There are voices (Scarr & McCartney, 1983) who believe that some of our genes also determine how robust our psyche will one day be. Our predisposition seems to play a role in the susceptibility to develop antisocial behavior after an abuse or similar severe crises. However, this is controversial and always represents only the starting point before the upbringing.
However, what has been proven is the fact that we do a lot our early childhood experiences determine our later resilience. For example, it could be shown that children from working and educated parents are significantly more resilient than from less educated or unemployed parents. It was also possible to demonstrate how important the family structure is for further development.
Individual children are often more resilient because they had to organize themselves at an early age, but children who are raised by only one parent are less resistant to it. It is interesting that children of single mothers have problems much more often than children of single fathers. Sons who grow up without a father are more likely to get into crime, while daughters without a father are more likely to become pregnant than teenagers.
In our early years up to adolescence, it is not insignificant in which social and family structure we grow up, how much support we receive and how lovingly we are cared for by our parents. Resilient children and adolescents in particular are therefore often unconsciously looking for caregivers early on – even outside the family – in order to leave the possibly not so good environment and thus create a more positive environment.
Research is currently of the opinion that each of us brings with us various factors from birth, that these continue to consolidate or shift in childhood due to the respective social milieu, but can later be consciously expanded by each individual.
How can resilience be promoted at a young age?
Parents in particular can have a positive effect on the development of their children’s mental resistance by creating a positive social environment. This includes, for example, supporting the children in their dreams and plans, accepting and respecting them in order to build up a healthy self-esteem, leading the way as a good example and engaging in close emotional ties to them through discussions. Several studies have also shown that this can be further increased by involving the grandparents, provided that they have a positive influence on the child.
Potentially resilient children can be recognized early on, for example, by the fact that they perform better at school than expected of them to be more empathetic and emotional and more likely to talk about their feelings. Other signs are realistic ideas about their future, a great interest in people, things and ideas as well as better discipline.
Even in later adolescence, it is therefore important to provide communicative skills, i.e. to actively teach one’s own environment and social skills such as helpfulness and trust at an early stage. Realistic planning of the future as well as any religious belief that may exist has been proven to be beneficial.
What can I do myself?
In order to make yourself more resilient, i.e. more resilient, for the crises that life brings with it, it is first of all essential to make it clear to you that you are the designer of your life and can actively influence your future (see also »Become a doer ).
It is important to have a healthy self-esteem and above all the self-confidence to be able to meet all the challenges that will arise in the future. This also includes strategies to solve problems as well as an optimistic look ahead.
Make sure you work solution-oriented instead of being fixated on problems. Take responsibility for your actions and learn to motivate yourself. Try to keep your sense of humor and see something positive in every situation.
In addition, it is important to build and maintain a high-quality social network that offers strength and support when things get a little more difficult. This includes stable relationships with friends and family as well as caregivers like a steady partner.
Resilience describes a person’s mental resilience to life crises. Crises are changes and circumstances in our life with which we have not previously faced and which can therefore initially overwhelm us. It is important, however, that we consider such moments as normal sections of our life and then come to terms with them.
It is assumed that certain factors for the ability to do just that are innate, but most of them only develop through our lives and that we can later actively influence the development of our resilience.
As mentioned, influencing factors are the social environment in which we grow up and then move later, as well as our own expectations of the future. Equally important is a healthy self-esteem, an optimistic attitude and the ability to see problems as a challenge.
Basically, you should always keep in mind which problems and crises you have mastered in life so far and that you will also master all other challenges in life.
We should always set a good example for our children – and perhaps also for our not so resilient – friends and support them in believing in themselves and their future.
P.S. Did you like what you read? Then I highly suggest to take a look at my book SHATTERED you can get it on Amazon.
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