Resilience and emotional toolkits

One theory on resilience is that it is the end result of knowingly applying positive psychology in the face of personal adversity and challenge. One of the reasons I am such an advocate of this field of psychology personally is because of the many emotional toolkits that it affords the applied practitioner. Resilient people have perhaps slightly different resources in the face of trouble or challenge. Resilient people have been described as individuals who display “the capacity to remain well, recover, or even thrive in the face of adversity” (Hardy, Concato & Gill, 2004).

Resilience in different situations

When the chips are down in any way, or our lives as we know them change, for good or bad, then our resilience is tested. Interestingly someone who is resilient in one situation may not always have the same resources when faced with a different challenge, or conversely may suddenly have great resilient capacity. This could point to resilience being something finite, but it could suggest that different types of trials and challenges need slightly different types of resilience. A question that I have as a practitioner and researcher is how we access the layers or types of resources of resilience.

Resources of family, relationships, optimism, positive self view, self-efficacy, sense of meaning, and a sense of humour amongst others have been identified as building blocks making up a resilient person (Flyn, Ghazal, Legault, Vandermeulen & Petrick, 2004). These are also factors which tie in with some of the ways people become groomed into terrorism according to profiling of those known to be involved in religious violent extremism.

Collective resilience

Collective resilience is what we see when people come together in unity and can be seen at crowd mentality levels, through to national or even global levels. This is where there are opportunities for knowledge of that resilience to be explored and shared.

This is what I would like to focus on for the purpose of this blog. It has been more the domain of social psychology to look at what people do when under fire with resilience, yet it also counts with what they do in the aftermath, for example where a disaster or act of terrorism has happened. But this could be merged with the type of resilience which can be grown with a toolkit of resources, and this job should begin to fall squarely at the door of positive psychology.

Resilience after terrorism

Let’s look at the recent events in Paris, where terrorist gunmen opened fire and set off explosives resulting sadly in many people being killed. People quickly rallied to support each other, even as the event was still unfolding, and some even put their lives on the line to protect other people with a perhaps reinforced or enhanced type of resilience. This area would benefit many if explored and also lends itself to the question of whether people are becoming more aware and more resilient, or if it was always there, we see it most in times of great need and where people gather in any cause and in unity against or for something. The government in trying to prepare for World War two coined the ‘keep calm and carry on’ campaign trying to utilise or mine this, in 1939. However it was thought better of by the government as it was feared it could patronise people, so very few posters were ever used, subsequently it then re-emerged in 2000 after the posters were found and then took off in popularity as we know and the phrase is used in many scenario’s, usually with a resilience theme.

Resilience also looks at how quickly people return to their baseline of emotional resources after a catastrophic or traumatic event, however there appears to be a resilience which emerges amidst the activity of a traumatic event, where people stand together to protect each other and develop survivor mentality after an event, either as individuals, or as a town, country, nation or culture.

Powerlessness and resilience

Whilst it is clear that a culture of resilience exists, this is something that positive psychology could bring to the fore with a resilience toolkit, perhaps integrated into teaching at a schools level. Powerlessness and resilience do not necessarily go together, and powerlessness is just one of the factors, along with guilt and sense of identity that contribute towards future capacity towards committing acts of terrorism.

If we teach our children resilience anyway, we may have less future terrorists who see no other way, and where collective resilience is utilised, it is not just baselines that are returned to, but there is a greater level which appears to be reached, meaning future generation will be better equipped to channel this resilience.

This is far to big a topic to do justice to in a blog, and hopefully more research will take place from a positive psychology stance on ways to promote this specific type of resilience moving forward.

About the author: Caralyn Cox

‘We Are The Positive Psychology People’

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