Bouncing Back from Hardship
We all have the capacity to reorganize our lives after a disruption and to achieve new levels of order and meaningfulness if we know how to activate our resilience. In fact, in order to mature through the process of meaningful change and reintegration, we may need to experience life disruptions. In other words, life disruptions are not necessarily a bad thing because they help us to grow and to meet future challenges in our lives. During the depths of chaos we are vulnerable because we do not know what lies ahead – but as we learn and adapt during the chaos, we prepare ourselves to meet further stresses in the future. The failure to pass successfully through any cycle of chaos and stress may leave us crippled with regard to future life disruptions.
All of us can learn methods to become more resilient. Sometimes, however, our lack of closure on previous life experiences blocks us from adapting to new periods of stress as they come along. A woman, abused emotionally by her father in childhood, for example, may have great difficulty in accepting his death if she still carries unresolved conflicts surrounding the early abuse. By working with a professional psychotherapist or counselor, she may be able to achieve some closure on the abuse from her childhood and this would open the way for her to accept his death more readily – that is, with resilience.
Similarly, a man who was exposed to physical violence in childhood may find it difficult, because of his unresolved issues with anger and victimization, to accept a national trauma such as a terrorist act. He may continue to dwell on issues of anger and injustice for months after the event, to the detriment of his job and family life. Again, working with a trained professional can be the route for this person to gain closure on his unresolved issues and to work toward a more integrated approach regarding acts of violence in the future.
Developing resilience depends on many factors in addition to achieving closure on previous life experiences.
Dr. Baya Mebarek, Psy.D., LMFT