Resilience - what is it?

Resilience - definition:

  • the opposite of fragility

  • resilience of a material against shock


It is a process where people reveal a positive adaptation despite experiencing significant adversity or trauma. It is the capacity for recovery, positive functioning or competence in the presence of adversity, involving multiple internal and external risks and threats.


This concept arose from the observation that, in the face of adversity, a large number of individuals did not present psychopathology.


Out of a pool of 698 children born on the island of Kauai in Hawaii, 54% live in conditions of significant poverty.

An investigation aimed to observe and document the evolution of pregnancy of all women on the island and the development of children, and assess the long-term consequences of perinatal complications and adverse care throughout the development of children. One third of them were exposed to multiple risk factors such as: poverty, health problems, poor parental education, parental alcoholism, violence, family instability/conflict, parental mental illness - these constituted the high-risk group.


This sample was reassessed at 18, 32 and 40 years of age. At 18, ⅔ of the high-risk group had problems in various areas of life (school, social, mental health). However, the remaining ⅓ had favorable results (resilience)!

What's more, at 32 and 40 years old, ⅚ of the maladaptive group managed to return to an adaptive trajectory!

These unexpected results of positive adaptation have led investigators to try to understand the protective factors underlying adaptive developmental pathways.


Some of the protective factors identified were:


  • be the first child

  • good communication skills

  • positive self-concept

  • locus of internal control (perception of being in control of one's own circumstances)

  • interests and hobbies

  • ability to focus attention and control impulses

  • environment exploration and organization skills in order to adjust it to your needs

  • high frustration tolerance


Throughout development, these children revealed a growing sense of autonomy and self-efficacy; they had at least one adult with whom they had a positive affective relationship (parents, other family members, teachers, neighbors, friends); they became involved in the community through participation in various activities that generate a sense of cohesion, social communion and ideological commitment.



Several studies have concluded that resilience is the norm rather than the exception!


For example, the vast majority of cancer patients have a resilient path, able to adapt well to the diagnosis and deal with the psychological, physical and social demands of treatments.


Therefore, a psychological assessment should strongly emphasise the individual's abilities and positive outcomes, rather than always focusing on difficulties and psychopathology.

Psychotherapy must, therefore, encompass a process in which the therapist mobilizes the patient's protective factors or tries, together with him, to develop new ones.


Positive psychological changes as a result of efforts made to deal with traumatic life situations can be encompassed in the concept of post-traumatic growth. This is characterized by:


Improved self-awareness:

"I have a greater sense of self-confidence and I know better that I can handle difficulties."

"I found that I am stronger than I thought."

"I developed new interests and I am able to do better things with my life."

"New opportunities have arisen that otherwise would not occur."


Stronger interpersonal relationships:

"I see I have people I can count on."

"I have more compassion for others."


Philosophy of life closer to its values:

"I appreciate the value of my life better."

“I changed my priorities about what's important in life.”


We conclude that any adversity is a learning opportunity. Adapting to life's circumstances is much more common than we might think and something possible within each of us.

A Mental Health Clinic Isabel Henriques deseja-lhe uma ótima semana :)


#psychology #amsterdam #mentalhealth #psicologiaemportugues #psychotherapy

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