All of us experience major disruptions at certain points in our lives. In fact, this is an expected and predictable hallmark of the human condition. For some, these hard times come frequently – the impact of the trauma is overwhelming and recovery, if it comes at all, can be painfully slow. Others show resilience and are able to glide through these times fairly easily, bouncing back to a normal life again quickly. Resilience – the strength required to adapt to change – lies at the heart of mental and emotional health.
Research studies in recent years have focused on the struggles faced by those who have been emotionally, sexually, and physically abused as children, as well as those who have grown up with learning disabilities and attention deficit disorders. They share in common many of the characteristics of those who have endured traumas later in life, such as war, the loss of a loved one, natural disasters, financial catastrophes, or a major illness. What has been most interesting in these studies is the finding that some traumatized people – both those with childhood abuse and other challenges, as well as those who experienced life disruptions in adulthood – suffer virtually no ill effects from the trauma. In fact, in many cases they seem to have grown stronger and led more integrated lives. This unexpected finding has guided researchers to explore the nature of resilience.
Those who are resilient seem to believe in the basic goodness of the world and trust that things will turn out all right in the end. This positive attitude allows them to weather times when everything seems bleak and to look for and accept the support that is out there. This approach toward the world gives them the ability to hope for a better future.