Monday, April 26, 2010

Word Wonder -- resilient

Monday, April 26, 2010

1. Springing back to a former shape or position.  2. Capable of recoiling from pressure or shock unchanged or undamaged.  3. Elastic; buoyant. [from the little-used English word "resile," which is pronounced "re-zile" and comes from the Middle French word resiler. That comes, in turn, from the Latin resilire, meaning back (re-) and to leap (salire)]

So picture this. You stretch an elastic rubber band a little and it will, indeed , leap back to its former shape (or so close to it that no change is visible). Stretch it a number of times, and it will still be resilient enough to return to its former shape. But if you stretch it far enough and often enough, it will not be able to keep its elasticity. The rubber band will begin to show stretch marks. It might become unusable. When overtaxed, it will even break.

So it is with human beings. When trouble strikes, we are often resilient enough to bounce back, to return to our former selves. Whether we do so on our own, or with help from other people or a spiritual source, we can resume our former views and activities, with little or no lasting harm done.

However, when we are stretched repeatedly -- through abuse, illness, calamity, or loss -- we can lose at least some of our resilience. When that stretching is intensified by violence, chronic pain, malicious intent or other factors, the ability to bounce back decreases. If this goes on for a long time, we can be changed irrevocably, perhaps reaching a point where we simply cannot go back to our former hope, health or happiness.

However, the comparison has to end here. We are not rubber bands, limited by our physical nature. In fact, we aren't limited by our emotional or mental natures, either. Human beings are often able to endure and surpass terrible troubles. Many somehow become more able to adapt and better equipped to move forward. No one knows why this is so, but many people know someone, or are the someone, who has done so. Though we may never know all the factors make some people so resilient, here are a few:
  • support from others     Be a helper. Reach out to somebody who's having a hard time. If you're the one having a hard time, learn to ask for help. We are social beings who flourish when we feel a sense of belonging and value; mutual support adds to those feelings.
  • a positive attitude     By focusing on your preferences and brighter outcomes, you will automatically spend less time mired in loss and disappointment. Picture yourself smiling, being relaxed, feeling good, instead of investing in your sadness, stress and despair. Hope grows when we invest our energy in positive outcomes. Confidence grows when hope grows. Interest and ability thrive in confidence.
  • spiritual connections     There is no prescription for this. You can foster belief in a god and a religion, or meditate, or allow the deep quiet inside you to grow by being with little children or in nature. Spiritual connection can come from creating or from enjoying others' creations. In any form, a sense of connectedness strengthens and deepens human beings.
  • acceptance     This is a tricky one, because some people equate acceptance with giving up or losing. They are not the same. Acceptance is related to trusting in a larger reality, a reality that can handle individual problems and roadblocks and apparent failures. Acceptance includes a belief in a better outcome, no matter how current circumstances look. It implies a sense of connectedness. On the other hand, giving up implies loss and a lack of value in oneself or the experience. It feeds and is fed by despair and isolation. Accept what is, rather than focusing on what if?.
  • gratitude     Appreciation helps us stay present in the moment, helping us notice what's going on inside and around us. A state of gratitude makes us stronger and better able to deal with difficult times.
These four factors are more complex than this, and more could be added to the list, but this isn't a book, so I'll have to leave it at that. In any case, you can increase your own resilience. It can take a short or a long time, but it is our nature to mend. What have you bounced back from in your lifetime? What will you do to increase your resilience?

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