Emotional Resilience Blog from The Fear Course

The latest research, realisations and thinking in the world of emotional resilience, anxiety and fear reduction from around the world.

How to be Emotionally Resilient

How to be Emotionally Resilient

In this article I want to have a look at what the research says about what emotional resilience is and what is it that makes someone resilient.
The first thing I usually have to say to people is that emotional resilience is not a lack of feeling or not having any feelings. I think that is called dead.

So what does the research say? Most studies describe emotional resilience as what happens as a result of adapting to a situation regardless of the level of risk, the amount of stress or the amount or level of adversity encountered. By successful adaptation they mean the ability to operate and deal with a situation without being adversely effected by anything which could have a negative emotional impact, which in turn means being able to deal with our emotions.

One set of researchers added that it is a set of beliefs and traits that enable individuals to bounce back from adversity, adapt to situations, thrive, learn and have mature emotional responses across a wide range of situations.

The point I made above about this not being a lack or absence of feeling or emotion is important. Empathy and our very human ability to 'feel' our way through a situation is important here and moves resilience away from being hard, unfeeling, remote or cut off. The ability to be able to operate with other people in difficult situations and to experience and use our normal range of emotions in the middle of an adverse situation suggests something else than just hardness. This includes active coping processes that encompasses what would be termed as psychological adjustment even in a difficult situation.

There is an old saying "Anyone can lead when things are easy. It takes a real leader to lead effectively when the going gets tough."

Self-leadership is a vital component of resilience, which incorporates the ability to be able to function positively with ones self and others, which in turn requires a level of self-esteem, respect and empathy. People like this can often find themselves leading others, particularly in difficult situations.

What is interesting is that a number of studies have found that people with higher levels of life-satisfaction (appreciation), self-esteem and optimism tend also to be the most adaptable and resilient. Indeed one study just published found that resilient people have higher levels of life-satisfaction even though they experience both negative and positive emotions. Research is showing resilience is not a lack of negative emotion or feelings, rather it is the sense of control one has over them.

There is also some evidence to show that people who feel they have control over their emotions also tend to feel more optimistic and enjoy life (life satisfaction). There is therefore a strong connection between resilience and emotion regulation - the ability to control our emotions rather than the emotions controlling us. Not only that, studies are now finding that people with greater levels of emotion regulation ability also tend to have heightened self-esteem.

 

References

Bonanno, G. A. (2004). Loss, trauma, and human resilience: Have we underestimated the human capacity to thrive after extremely aversive events? American Psychologist, 59, 20–28.

Burns, R. A., Anstey, K. J., & Windsor, T. D. (2011). Subjective well-being mediates the effects of resilience and mastery on depression and anxiety in a large community sample of young and middle-aged adults. Australian and New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry, 45, 240–248.

Chang, E. C., & Sanna, L. J. (2007). Affectivity and psychological adjustment across two adult generations: Does pessimistic explanatory style still matter? Personality and Individual Differences, 43, 1149–1159.

Lui, Y,. et al., (2014) Affect and self-esteem as mediators between trait resilience and psychological adjustment. Personality and Individual Differences 66 (2014) 92–97

Luthar, S. S., Cicchetti, D., & Becker, B. (2000). The construct of resilience: A critical evaluation and guidelines for future work. Child Development, 71, 543–562.

Mak, W. W. S., Ng, I. S. W., & Wong, C. C. Y. (2011). Resilience: Enhancing well-being through the positive cognitive triad. Journal of Counseling Psychology, 58, 610–617.

Park, H., Heppner, P. P., & Lee, D. (2010). Maladaptive coping and self-esteem as mediators between perfectionism and psychological distress. Personality and Individual Differences, 48, 469–474.

Pinquart, M. (2009). Moderating effects of dispositional resilience on associationsbetween hassles and psychological distress. Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology, 30, 53–60.

Siu, O.-L., Hui, C. H., Phillips, D. R., Lin, L., Wong, T., & Shi, K. (2009). A study of resiliency among Chinese health care workers: Capacity to cope with workplace
stress. Journal of Research in Personality, 43, 770–776.

Tugade, M. M., & Fredrickson, B. L. (2004). Resilient individuals use positive emotions to bounce back from negative emotional experiences. Journal of
Personality and Social Psychology, 86, 320–333.

Wagnild, G., & Young, H. M. (1990). Resilience among older women. Journal of Nursing Scholarship, 22, 252–255.

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