Resilience comes from the Latin root verb meaning "to spring back." You can find many articles and blogs online that list traits of resilient people. However, avoid doing yourself a disservice by comparing yourself to these lists. Remember that you are a beautiful work in progress. Healing takes time. As we have emphasized, trauma recovery is different for each person.
Realize, the human brain is a very resilient organ. As many trauma professionals have learned, this resilience is best accessed when conditions are right for healing. Thus, a person who is surrounded with guidance, support, and the resources needed for healing, is in a better position to tap into their resilience. Conversely, a person who is criticized, or treated with impatience and disrespect may encounter difficulty in harnessing their inherent resilience.
If you resonate with many of the concepts we have discussed, you are already engaging in a courageous act by your willingness to examine the wounds that may be keeping you stuck in life. Having survived to this point, please know that you already possess a great deal of resilience even though you may not realize you've been tapping into it all along. Surviving a trauma and living your life in an injured state is not an easy task. If you feel that you are still missing out on the life that you deserve, please be aware there are many resources at your disposal that can help you further your recovery (with or without professional help). We have only touched upon a few.
The meaning of resilience, resolution, and recovery are personal and unique to each survivor. As Dr. Wayne Eastlack, a Vietnam veteran and clinical psychologist described, it meant a shift from hot, troubling memories to 'just' bad memories that no longer controlled his life. Heather Bowser, who was introduced earlier in the article, readily acknowledges that she is still going through her grieving process with her dad. Her triumph is that it has not stopped her from living her life to the fullest. Another survivor once shared with me, "I hate that word resolution. I don't think it's ever going to be possible for me. But I can resonate with the ideas of reconciliation and renewal."
People have a right to choose the words that define that their trauma recovery. However, be careful you don't become your own abuser. Let's take a look at what happened to Todd. He noticed that by expecting a "resolution" of his trauma, he unknowingly set himself up for failure.
Todd, a Protestant minister, came for EMDR therapy many years ago. He had heard rave reviews about the approach and its merits. Todd was a survivor of multilayered emotional abuse in his childhood home. He continued to see the world through the distorted filter instilled by his demanding parents. Todd went through two years of EMDR treatment. This helped with his most acute symptoms of depression. Nonetheless, he berated himself because while the emotional "charge" surrounding the abuse had diminished, it still surfaced occasionally when he was highly stressed. Everything he read about EMDR told him he should be "cleared" and that these memories should no longer be an issue. At one point, Todd made the startling realization that he was setting himself up for more self-degradation by not being gentle with himself.
One day, Todd came into session and told his therapist he now saw his own trauma recovery in the same way that an addict might view long-term sobriety. He commented, "This trauma digs down to the core of who I am. It would be unrealistic to think that the impact can all just go away. I am so much better overall than I was when I started therapy, so I'm going to accept that, and when I identify that I'm having a bad patch with my issues, I am going to take care of myself like I need to." For Todd, this care meant using the skills he had learned as part of his treatment in the service of his healing.
American icon and survivor of multiple adverse life experiences and trauma, Helen Keller, once declared: "Although the world is full of suffering, it is also full of the overcoming of it." Even though an article like this can read like a treatise in doom and gloom, our goal was to instill hope. Healing from trauma is possible! We would like every trauma survivor to thrive, not just survive. The human body is hard-wired for healing; both physically and emotionally. If people receive the resources they need to promote healing (e.g., time, social support, validation, proper care, emotional and/or spiritual guidance), emotional wounds can be healed. As with physical wounding, there may be scars. However, if the emotional wound is given proper care and attention, the wounded part of you can become tougher-just like the skin of a physical scar-a beautiful metaphor for resilience.
"Since I was young, I have always known this: Life damages us, everyone. We can't escape that damage. But now I am learning this: We can be mended. We mend each other." -Veronica Roth (in her bestselling novel, Allegiant)
"It's in the stars. It's been written on the scars of our hearts, we're not broken, just bent, and we can learn to love again." (lyrics to the popular song, "Just Give Me a Reason" by Pink)"