Emotional resilience is our individual capacity to cope with adversity in life. The word resilience comes from the Latin resilio, which means’ to bounce back’ or ‘ recoil’ . The term resilience has been in use for decades to describe how individuals respond to stress. In the Toxic Stress , we explored the genetic and environmental factors predisposing some of us to be more resilient to stress.
But it is the addition of the word ‘ emotional’ that has changed our perspective . In the past , it was recognised that some children emerging from severely deprived background or the horrors of war seemed to ‘survive’ such experiences, without significant ongoing emotional or mental health difficulties .
These children were classified as resilient. It was assumed initially that their individually ability to adapt and survive was secondary to their genes or personality. With time, it has become increasingly obvious that how well children , and indeed adults , manage their emotional responses to such adversity is what will determine their resilience.
As a family doctor who has witnessed pretty much everything that life can throw at children and adults , this has been apparent to me for decades . Those who cope best can recognise and manage their emotions. Their behaviour patterns are often healthier than those who succumb to such traumatic stressors. This is most obvious when one deals with large families where hardship, addiction and poverty combine to create extremely challenging upbringings for the growing child and adolescent .
This fresh insight into emotional resilience has opened up a world of new possibilities. Emotions, as we will explore later, are created by thoughts. They are also with specific behavioural patterns. Some emotions are also associated with physical symptoms.
This leads us naturally into the world of CBT. Underlying this therapy is an understanding that we can develop skills to change our thoughts and behaviour for the better, at any point in a person’s life.
Emotional resilience is within reach of all of us . We just need to identify the skills required . then develop and put them into practice.
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