There is a lot of discussion of resiliency among people in therapy. Why? Probably because they’ve heard their therapist say something about it, and to quote Inigo Montoya (Princess Bride) “You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.”
There are people who use this word to describe people in other classes. For some, the actions and choices of the rich define what they think resilience is. On the other hand, there are quite a few professionals (not necessarily all involved in psychology) using the word as a goal for the poor, because if they can “just be resilient” then life will be all unicorns, rainbows and butterflies.
Guess what, people? It ain’t that way in the real world.
- There are resilient and not-so-resilient people in all economic classes. Neither your economic status nor your relative financial success/failure defines your ability to be resilient.
- To quote the American Psychological Association (APA) Psychology Help Center’s brochure on “The Road To Resilience” resilience is defined as:
Let me say this loudly:
Now that I have your attention, let me give you another fact. As much as persistence is a character trait that is enshrined in our culture as something to strive for, it is not healthy for everyone across the board. Without going too heavily into the esotericism of psychology, having the character trait of high persistence inclines someone to have both depression and anxiety, unless one has a character trait of high self-directedness and a character trait of high harm avoidance.
People have repeatedly told me through the years that I am “the strongest (person or woman) they know.” Ignoring the semi-sexist slant of “woman” versus “person,” my ability to keep going is NEITHER resiliency NOR persistence. The title of the post explains it fairly quickly for me, but perhaps not for you. Let me give you a visual and aural example (with a shout-out to Dolph Lundgren of Rocky IV):
Quite frankly, it is this stubborn refusal to stop hitting my head against a brick wall that has gotten me into this particular place in my life.
Don’t get me wrong, that same refusal to quit has helped me out too. It’s one of the reasons I have only had any thoughts of suicide once in my life. In fact, I am far more likely to have homicidal ideation, which is actually surprisingly normal for many people.
But it is that exact same stubborn refusal to quit — until and unless someone beats me over the head enough times to get it through my thick head how much I am actually harming myself — that is what people point to when they call me “strong.”
While living by my own principles and beliefs is a very positive consideration, being resistant to acknowledging that one or more of those principles and/or beliefs is actually damaging not only my mind but also my integrity (using the definition of integrity as the state of being whole and undivided, rather than the trait of integrity which is the quality of being honest and having strong moral principles; moral uprightness).
Without internal consistency and integrity, we become stone-hearted and tyrannical, particularly if we have control issues as well. Without integrity of spirit, we become easily swayed by charm, lies and fear-mongering.
That’s the lesson I need to learn from this.