The Main Characteristics of Resilience and How to Transform Trauma into Growth

There is no doubt that 2020 and 2021 have been challenging years which called out for us to have resilience. And although many therapists like me did sessions online to help people through the changes, having the personal strength was still important. But firstly, what is this strength and endurance? And what are the main characteristics of what I call ‘organically resilient’ people.

In brief, psychological resilience is a person’s natural or learnt ability to both emotionally and mentally cope in the face of a crisis. This can also mean their ability to quickly get back to their normal post crisis. In essence, these people all have certain traits or qualities which help them maintain their buoyant spirit. These traits include:

– Accepting their reality without judging or blaming: This type of person can focus on the crisis, not acting impulsively, instead staying calm and grounded in high pressure situations. Resilient people are also able to identify the causes of problems to avoid reliving them again.

– Deeply believing that life has meaning: People who are optimistic that things can get better and have faith in the meaning of life are usually more resilient. This is because, these qualities allow our confidence in ourselves and our abilities to flourish. Which is helpful, since our individual gifts and abilities act as life vests, carrying us to safety in times of storms. Regardless of religion, race, sexuality or gender, our beliefs and our qualities will help in a crisis.

– Developing a great capacity to improve: Thirdly, people with this strength, have a positive vision of the future. So, they are driven to search for new opportunities or relationships, that make them more successful and satisfied with life.

Of course, these are not the only characteristics of a person who has this particular quality. There are also many other traits. These include self-awareness, self-control and self-accountability, as well as the ability to stay calm under pressure or in a crisis. Empathy is another – allowing us to find solutions that take others into account. Motivation and optimism are equally important, driving us to find solutions and overcome obstacles.  

How can Resilience Help You?

Adversities are a natural part of life. But when we view these hard times as positive learning opportunities, we activate our resilience skills. These skills are basically our capacity to transform a traumatic event into positive change. ‘But how can I be more able to handle difficult situations?’ I hear you ask! Here are some ways this strenth can help you get through:

• With self-awareness of our personal resources or skills that could help us when facing an unwanted event. Our gifts are out most precious resource in times of difficulty. So, the recognition of these gifts generates the feeling of being prepared to successfully get through any event that may happen.

• Recognition of the support of others. One of the good things about this strength and endurance, is that it can show us that we are not alone in the world. Rather we feel strengthened thanks to companionship, empathy, and the help or support of others. This support is integral to helping us get through hard times in life. Rewarding emotional connections fuel our will to live. In fact, it has been shown that people who maintain loving relationships with family or friends, develop higher levels of resilience than those who lack an emotional support network.

• Communication is one of the pillars of resilience. But for it to help us, we must learn to listen to what others say, both with and without words. This practice is called active listening. When, in addition to listening with empathy and heart, we help others find the answers and dispel doubts.

How Can Resilience Transform Trauma into Positive Transformation?

Traumatic events can actually act as keys that unlock unknown doors within us. In turn, unlocking these doors can bring about incredible transformation in many aspects of our lives. For example, with this strength, we learn to appreciate and enjoy things, people or situations more fully. Such as love for oneself and for others. Which in turn, is an essential part of self-improvement.

Emotional support is undeniably an essential factor in trauma becoming transformative. Of course, having people we trust and who love and support us makes us much more resilient. These relationships can also help us to turn our trauma into an opportunity for growth. Psychiatrist Victor Frankl’s famous book: “Man’s Search for Meaning”, emphasises love as fundamental to maintaining the will to live. Frankl experienced the trauma of the concentration camps of Nazi Germany during the Second World War. However, it was his love for his wife that was the key to his overcoming these terrible adversities. And eventually he went on to use this trauma to write his book and earn recognition for his work.

“The salvation of man is through love and in love.” – Victor Frankl

Positive thinking boosts emotional intelligence. Furthermore, a positive attitude is needed to not throw in the towel in the face of disadvantages that happen. In his book “Emotional Intelligence”, Daniel Goleman explains how the ability to know and recognize one’s own emotions makes one more aware and more able to handle adversity.

Goleman also talks about particular emotions that support us in turning stressful events into personal development. One is motivation because it drives achievement beyond expectations. Another is self-control or the ability to appease our emotions so that they do not overwhelm us. He also speaks of empathy with the others as an important quality.

It is important to realise that positive thinking does not mean escaping reality to not live what is difficult. In fact, organically resilient people feel painful situations, but are able to see beyond those moments and not lose heart. In turn, these people know what their strengths are, what resources they can count on, and what their goals are. Realising that nothing is completely positive or negative, they strive to focus on the positives in order to enjoy the challenges. These people live according to a mixture of optimism and realism, which motivates them to face challenges and find solutions.

How to Cope with Crises 

There are many ways to deal with challenges and crises. Whether you are dealing with crisis in business or crisis in your personal life, there is always a solution. Ideally, we should use these situations as an opportunity for positive change. Firstly, an easy way to improve our capacity to handle challenges it to become aware of our strengths. Subsequently, this will allow us to hone self-awareness and self-confidence. Which in turn provides courage and determination.

Know that like everything in life, adversity is not eternal. So whether you are already a resilient person, or you struggle in the face of adversity, there are always people out there to talk to who can help you through the harder times. Viola Edward has decades of experience as a psychotherapist and mentor, so get in touch and book your online session today!

The original article was published in Business Fit Magazine in November 2020

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