What is Resilience?

I’ve started to do a new activity in my virtual trainings: I ask participants to write in the chat box whatever word comes to mind when they hear the word “resilience.”

Immediately, the chat box begins filling up with descriptive words. Perseverance. Strength. Grit. Flexibility.

Then, I ask participants to categorize the words they see based on whether the focus is on the individual vs. the collective. Some quickly answer “the individual.” Others ask what I mean by “the collective.”

Dr. Mike Ungar, founder and Director of the Resilience Research Centre at Dalhousie University in Nova Scotia, Canada, has done ground-breaking work as a family therapist and resilience researcher around the world. In this video, he defines resilience as “…this complicated dance between what we have inside of us and what we do to awaken that in people.”

The collective, then, are the people and systems that individuals interface with, and how supportive, fair, equitable and compassionate those people and systems are. Resilience is a combination of both the individual and collective when fully understood.

So, why do most Americans have a primary word association that focuses on the individual? What does that say about the explicit and implicit messages we receive about resilience? And, can a limited understanding do harm?

You can probably imagine the rich discussions that arise when these and other provocative questions get kicked around. We would love to have you join us for our next conversation like this, as well as other topics equally as stimulating. You can find many ways to partake in learning in the listings below, or by going to SaintA.org/trainings.

This article was originally posted in SaintA’s Trauma Informed Care Newsletter. Sign up to receive the next issue directly in your inbox!


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