Resilience can be thought of as G-ds natural medication for a healthier and thriving life. We can learn a great deal from resilient people and each one of us can take advantage of this wonderful and holistic tool to stay physically and emotionally healthy. Some have it innately; most of us must learn the secrets. The best part is, we can all learn to become resilient. We can train ourselves to improve our lives and obtain the skills and knowledge that enable us to become resilient.

“Although the world is full of suffering, it is also full of the overcoming of it.”  Helen Keller. Resiliency can be an effective tool for healing and defending ourselves against life’s disruptions. What type of disruptions; health, disease, loss, social, emotional, financial and psychological, including abuse, mistreatment, divorce, and mental illness. More importantly, resilience can help us grow in a world of change and challenges.  Each day brings stress, and our ability to withstand them increases our ability to handle the plethora of disruptions that we face.

Resilience and Healing


Before we move on, let’s make one thing clear. There is definitely more than one way to heal.  The articles in this edition of Body Mind and Soul offer an array of ways to heal from both physical and mental pain and suffering. More so, to heal often takes multiple tools complementing each other.


Healing does not always mean complete relief from an ailment. Jon Kabat-Zin, Ph.D., the author of the famous book, Full Catastrophe Living, differentiates between healing and curing.  While every ailment, physically or mentally, cannot be cured, he states emphatically we can heal ourselves.  Healing implies the possibility to relate to our maladies differently through the lens of wholeness.  We are not defined by our illness, that we are larger than our illness or problem.  Saleebey in his thesis book, Strengths Perspective in Social Work Practice echoes that sentiment.  He argues that “humans have an inborn facility to regenerate, and resist when faced with disorder, disease and disruption”. When people believe that they are not their disease, they also become aware of their strengths to move beyond the disruption and become stronger from the experience even if it is chronic and constant.


What is not Resilience?


Resilience is not the denial or negation of pain and stress.  It is not the denial of painful experiences or tragedies, whether they are personal, family or communal. It is not the minimizing of the daily issues and events we experience all the time in life that causes us suffering.  Cognitively, it is not feeling hopeless or the mindset of being a victim. Peterson, Maier, and Seligman in their book, Learned Helplessness, study in great detail those who have “learned’ that they are helpless and have no personal control over their lives or the events that affect their lives. This is the exact opposite of the resilient individual. They forcefully contend that helplessness is learned and becomes internalized and defines who they are, but can be “unlearned” as we change our thinking and our behaviors. Cognitive Behavior theory challenges these mal adaptive negative thoughts and beliefs and empowers the patient to adapt new and positive beliefs.


What actually is Resilience?


“Resilience isn’t bouncing back, it’s leaping forward” Sherri Mandell, author of The Blessing of a Broken Heart


We all know someone who we think of as resilient.  But what is a resilient person, or family or community?  We often refer to our forefathers and ancestors as resilient, Abraham, Jacob, Moses, King David, holocaust survivors, to name a few examples. Sherri Mandell, author of The Blessing of a Broken Heart and The Road to Resilience: From Chaos to Celebration, writes of her healing journey after the killing of her 13-year- old son, stoned to death by Palestinian Terrorists. Her story is truly remarkable and she has become a prolific writer, author and lecturer on the topic of surviving and thriving after tragedy. History is full of men and women who have not only faced adversity but have grown from the experience.


Resilience has been defined in many ways, often using synonyms such as flexibility, elasticity and pliability. Here are some excellent and very informative definitions. Dr. Igor Linkov, in an article in Psychiatric Times, wrote “Resilience is identified as an individual’s positive adaptation to life tasks under stressful and adverse situations, or positive growth that mediates rates of recovery after disruptions”.  Dennis Saleebey, uses this definition, “the self -righting tendencies…the capacity to be bent without breaking and the capacity once bent to spring back”.  Saleebey posits that resiliency epitomizes and operationalizes the strength-based perspective. Resiliency is not about being triumphant over the event or issue but about being triumphant over the emotions that can bring a person to feel depressed, anxious, and physically sick and at a loss because of the disruptions of life.


The dynamic coping power of resiliency empowers the individual, family or community to weather the storms of life and use those events to grow. The resilient person hones these tools and skills. Many professionals use resiliency theory that captures these key concepts to help a person overcome adversity and thrive as a person. We must keep in mind that everyone faces these events and each person has their own emotional and physical response.  What one person may consider a minor occurrence can be tragic to another.  Catastrophic events like floods and hurricanes are easy to define. But many argue that resiliency is often built up in the daily issues we face and how we learn to respond to them. Consider an older adult who is told they can no longer drive or the young adult who is rejected from their college of choice. Consider a person waiting in a long line at the Department of Motor Vehicles! The parents are troubled because their child must wear a mask in school. The parent who just got fired from their job.


“Nothing is impossible, the word itself says, I’m Possible!” Audrey Hepburn, Actress.


How does one move toward Resiliency?


For most of us, being “resilient” does not come naturally. Dr. Linkov asserts that resilience is built and increased to expand an individual’s capacity and to take advantage of opportunities in both good and bad times.  More than just returning to the previous normal, new characteristics of resilience is developed including; being aware, diverse, adaptive and self regulating. Other attributes that come to mind: motivated, courageous, thankful and generous.


“You don’t have resilience, you build it” Sherri Mandell.


Let’s begin with the 7 pillars of resilience.
1) Acceptance- understanding that bad things will happen. That disruption is part of life. Most are not permanent and they determine what our future life will become.
2) Optimism- to be positive and know you have the ability to direct your own life.
3) Solution oriented- that you have the ability to solve problems.
4) Not a victim- to be proactive and not passive toward life’s events.
5) Taking responsibility- owning your active role in a situation.
6) Planning for the future- developing achievable goals and determining how you want the future to look like.
7) Networking- the capability to connect with others and develop meaningful relationships.


Dr. Kenneth Ginsberg, a child pediatrician and specialist in human development specializes in helping children develop resiliency. His model proposes the seven “C”s, interrelated components that make up being resilient; curiosity, compassion, control, connections, challenge, community, confidence, coping.


Others include important skills such as being mindful. Being mindful helps one stay in the moment and being present in the situation. Regulating emotions is another important skill. Staying calm and level headed.


There is another important pillar mentioned by several experts and that is spirituality. Mandell in her book, From Chaos to Celebration details the pillars of spirituality that develop resiliency. Viktor Frankl, a holocaust survivor and the author of Man’s Search for Meaning, posits that everything in life, including suffering, can be meaningful. Adversity is not an aberration to life but at its core it enables us to explore the meaning of life and our unique role and purpose in the world.


These are the main attributes (characteristics) of the resilient person. I would like to venture one more that the experts I feel have missed.   That is “wisdom”. Many older adults have it. According to Erikson the successful completion of the phase Integrity vs. despair, leads to wisdom. The seven plus pillars are the attributes in life that I believe also lead to wisdom. Wisdom can often only be obtained through the trials and experiences of life, including what happens during times of disruption and adversity. A person becomes confident and self aware and capable of helping themselves and others. Becoming resilient helps us to rally our internal and external resources for the benefit of ourselves, others and society at large.


It gives us the power to see beyond the moment and to use that power to heal and thrive!!

Douglas Balin, LMSW, MPA can be reached at


Photo by Jared Rice on Unsplash