I have been invited to give a keynote address on Resilience and I need your help. What is resilence. Are we resilient? And if so, what does it mean really?
In my head I remember a commercial describing a linoleum floor as ‘resilient’. The commercial depicted glass breaking on the floor and literally bouncing off. No sign of nicks, scratches. No scar. No harm done. No obvious change in the floor. It was resilient.
On the other hand, I have heard so many people describing children as ‘resilient’ , suggesting they bounce back quickly and like new. Much like the lineolum floor, children are said to show no damange, no wear and tear, no scar. I’m not sure it is true.
If resilient means no scars, no sign of trauma, I cannot speak for you, but I am certainly not resilient.
Interestingly I found a mathmetical definition of resilience. It defined Resilience as the property of a material to absorb energy when it is deformed elastically and then, upon unloading to have this energy recovered. In other words, it is the maximum energy per unit volume that can be elastically stored. It is represented by the area under the curve in the elastic region in the Stress-Strain diagram.
Modulus of Resilience, Ur, can be calculated using the following formula:
where σ is yield stress, E is Young's modulus, and ε is strain.
While I am no mathmetician, this definition suggests a certain elasticity and I’m probably stretching it a great deal, but if I take a leap and think how it might apply to people, it suggests that there is an elasticity about us, that when bombarded with pain, fear, change – we are able to recover, to restore our energy.
Another definition of resilience suggests an ability to recover from or adjust easily to misfortune or change. Adjust easily… well, I don’t think it is exactly easy, but adjust for sure and more likely because we have no choice. Studies suggest resilient children and their families had the following traits that made them different from non-resilient children and families.
• The ability to cope with stress effectively and in a healthy manner
• Having good problem-solving skills
• Seeking help
• Holding the belief that there is something one can do to manage your feelings and cope
• Having social support
• Being connected with others, such as family or friends
• Self-disclosure of the trauma to loved ones
• Having an identity as a survivor as opposed to a victim
• Helping others
• Finding positive means in the trauma
If resilience means no scars, no signs of stress, no trauma; I am not resilient, not at all. I like to think of it this way: If life throws cow manure in your face, do your best to use it as fertilizer to grow something beautiful.
I would welcome your thoughts.