Psychological resilience; what it is and how to get it
Written by listed counsellor/psychotherapist: Graeme Orr MBACP(Accred), UKRCP Reg. Ind. Counsellor
4th December, 20130 Comments
“Our job is unconditional love, the job of everyone else in our life is to push our buttons.”, this quote from Byron Katie, the American writer, shows why psychological resilience is so important in today’s society. Psychological resilience may be described as the ability to ‘bounce back’ from the trials you may face, your ability to cope with the stress and even grow as a result of the experience. Those who lack or have limited resilience may become overwhelmed, and be unable to cope with the feelings or moods, the stress or the situations and it can lead to illness. It is worth noting that psychological resilience is not a tool for eliminating stress, but rather a way in which we deal with and overcome the challenges that it might set.
Even the most casual of observer of the human condition may have wondered why some people seem to be able to cope with adversity with ease, where others seem to struggle with lesser challenges. Perhaps you have wondered why some are able to cope with financial problems or losing their jobs, and can move on. Yet others seem to become stuck dwelling on the experience, finding it difficult or unable to move on. This difference is what psychologists would label as a difference in resilience.
For many, the ability comes naturally; but for the rest of us the good news is that we can learn the skills that will help boost our resilience, and therefore our ability to cope with adversity. One of the first things to realise, is that making mistakes is part of life and that does not make you a bad or a good person, just human. In many ways, it is what you do with the mistake that sets different people apart – can you learn from the experience? Awareness of yourself is important, what are you feeling? What is your gut reaction? Often, we have a felt sense as to what would be right for us, and following that will be the right thing to do. (If its not, remember it's okay to make mistakes!) When we do go forward, often we set unrealistic, unachievable goals; 'I want to lose 10 kilos in 2 months' or 'I want to publish my book next month'. Be compassionate and realistic with yourself when setting out goals; piling on pressure will lead to stress, and you will feel worse if you have no chance of achieving the goal. That brings us nicely to priorities; we all have busy lives and 101 things that need to be done now, yet we only have a finite resource of time, so it is important to prioritise and having done that accept that something will just have to wait. If you feel it can’t, then you need to review your priorities and move something else to the end of the queue. One way of getting more time is to ask for help or to delegate. We are often fearful of doing this sometimes because we fear it says we can’t cope, or that we fear the person will not do a good job; yet there is a balance to be struck between being realistic as to what can be reasonably done by one person, and whether it has to be perfect. Some of the time, getting the job done will be more important than perfection.
If you can offer yourself unconditional love and compassion, if you can practice some of these skills you will find that there, like many areas of life, is a balance to be struck. That balance allows you to be psychologically resilient, moving to deal with issues and coping back to be ready to deal with the next set of buttons that the world has pushed for you.
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