Amity Institute Of Training & Development

Building Resilience Read Time: 8 mins

Why do some people suffer real adversities and not falter? Why do some people buckle under pressure? And what makes some people bend and ultimately bounce back? It’s a question that has fascinated me ever since I first learned about the survivors of holocaust when I saw the movie “ The escape from Sobibor” which was based on was based on Richard Rashke's 1983 book by the same name, along with a manuscript by Thomas Blatt, "From the Ashes of Sobibor", and also references from the book by Stanislaw Szmajzner, Inferno in Sobibor.

My further personal exploration has taught me much about resilience, although I feel that none of us will ever understand fully as it is one of the greatest puzzles of human nature - like metaphysis or the religious predisposition. But in examining through psychological research and in reflecting on the many stories of grit or resilience that I’ve heard over the years, have tried to see a little more deeply into the minds of people, in doing so, looked more deeply into the human essence as well.

What is resilience? While going through a lot many resumes of entry-level candidates who had applied for various posts in my last organisation, I happen to often come across candidates mentioning grit and resilience as their strengths. But frankly speaking, candidates at the entry-level in the organisation are just too young to know that about themselves. Resilience or grit is something you realize you have after the fact. It is realised and recognised by reflecting on life’s various adversities and challenges taken in stride and faced them … well.

Current times are dark days: people are losing jobs, taking pay cuts, not able to pay their liabilities. Some of them are giving away, getting into depression or suffering loss of confidence. As they say this world is an epitome of contrast and contradictions – there are others are bouncing back with a bang and many are taking advantage of a layoffs to build a new career or exploring the hidden potential and building on the same. What makes these people look at the brighter side? What carries them through tough times? It’s nothing but – Resilience.

A large number of the early hypotheses about resilience focused on the function of hereditary qualities. There's some fact to that, obviously, yet an expanding group of observational proof shows that flexibility—regardless of whether in kids, overcomers of death camps, or organizations back from the verge—can be developed. Most of the research that I have gone through, shares an overlap of four characteristics that a resilient people have: Acceptance of the problem being faced, deep faith and purpose in life, recognising the “natural equilibrium” and re-inventing themselves. Let’s explore how we can build resilience.

Acceptance: As Stanly Cohen states in his book - States of Denial: Knowing about atrocities and Suffering - Blocking out, turning a blind eye, shutting off, not wanting to know, wearing blinkers, seeing what we want to see ... these are all expressions of denial. He goes on to state that denial is always partial. Some information is always registered. This paradox of doubleness – knowing and not knowing – is the heart of denial. This paradox leads to what Wurmser states as “pseudostupidity” - tendency to overlook the obvious and inability to make appropriate choices. Facing reality is a tough job. It its indeed an unsettling, gruelling, unpleasant and can even be emotionally draining. But the fact is that when we truly look at the reality the way it is and accept the same, we automatically prepare ourselves to act in a way that would help us to endure and survive the adversity. Acceptance of the magnitude of the problem helps us to prepare us mentally and emotionally to undergo the problem at hand.

Deep Faith and Purpose: Many of us when faced with adversity have a natural reaction of – Why me? Why this only happens to me only? Why I am always on the receiving side? Why the whole cosmos conspires to take way my peace of mind, every time? Such people see themselves as victims, and living through hardship carries no lessons for them. But resilient people devise ideas about their suffering to create some sort of meaning for themselves and others. They take it as an opportunity to learn and explore more about themselves and world on the whole. There is deep sense of faith that this adversity is for a better reason and they derive a purpose out of it. We have seen a lot many great people in history who were able to derive their purpose of life when they faced adversity – Mahatma Gandhi, Nelson Mandela, Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King to name a few.

Austrian psychiatrist and Auschwitz survivor Victor Frankl (Author of Man in Search of Meaning) realized that to survive the camp, he had to find some purpose. He did so by imagining himself giving a lecture after the war on the psychology of the concentration camp to help outsiders understand what he had been through. By creating concrete goals for himself, he rose above the sufferings of the moment.

Research by Charles S. Carver and Michael F. Scheier note that thinking about a future goal in more abstract and general terms may inculcate resilience and perhaps even aid recovery and success in achieving it. Instead of focusing on replacing the specifics of what’s been lost, thinking about it generally opens up many more ways of achieving the goal you have.

Recognising the “Natural Equilibrium”: The more we mature in life, the more we understand that life is nothing but series of experiences. These experiences if are as per our expectations then they appear pleasant to us. If these experiences are not as per expectations then they appear unpleasant to us and then we have a set of experiences which are neither pleasant or unpleasant and we are neutral in such situation.

Out of personal experiences that I have of adversity of some decades in this human life, have come to a conclusion that we can never undergo pleasant experience or happiness at all times and we can neither be sad or unhappy most of the time. I recognised this fact during the loss of a near and dear one. On hearing the death news, the world was shattered and was very sad to an extent that had expressed my grief outwardly, but I observed that post some hours, there was something in me that was pushing me towards normal state. This observation went on during the entire period of mourning and thereafter. It helped me to recognise that there is a “natural equilibrium” which we are automatically pushed into whenever we face any extreme situation of happiness and sorrow. Recognising and nurturing this sense of “natural equilibrium” helps to get out of adversity and makes one prepared to face the next one better. As they say … This shall too pass!

Reinventing: Reinventing here can be defined as a kind of inventiveness, an ability to improvise a solution to a problem without proper or obvious tools or materials. It is the ability to make do with whatever is at hand. French anthropologist Claude Levi-Strauss termed this knack as bricolage. In his words - “In its old sense, the verb bricoler . . . was always used with reference to some extraneous movement: a ball rebounding, a dog straying, or a horse swerving from its direct course to avoid an obstacle.” When circumstances unravel, bricoleurs jumble through, imagining possibilities where others are perplexed.

We all have heard a lot many stories about people around us who reinvented them selves and were able to survive against all odds. Such is a case of Major D.P. Singh. He was injured on 15 July 1999 at LOC in Akhnoor sector while fighting for India during the Kargil War. He was 80 meters from a Pakistani Army post when a mortar fell within 1.5 metre of where he was; the shrapnel injured multiple parts of his body. A part of his right leg was amputated as it had developed gangrene. After his amputation, he gradually started running using a prosthetic limb and has run in 26 half marathons in his running career. This includes three marathons extreme high altitude as high as 11700 ft in Leh. He has successfully reinvented himself as the India's first blade runner. He is also a writer, motivational speaker and a social worker.

Resilience is a reflex—a method of confronting and understanding the world—that is profoundly carved into an individual's psyche and soul. Tough individuals and organizations face reality with steadfastness, make the importance of difficulty as opposed to shouting out despondently, and improvise solutions from meager resources they have.

To know more about building resilience, look out for our training solutions:

Against all odds

Managing Through Uncertainty: Embracing Crisis and Identifying Opportunities

Leading Through Change.

Click here to know about all our corporate training solutions.

Get in touch if you would like to know more about us.

By: Vaani Gandha


Explore our solutions - Click here