Dr. Kristen Johnson, PT, SEP
February 16, 2023

Resilience (definition): A flexible and responsive system in the face of adversity.

It has been said that it is not a matter of if we will experience injury, pain, or disease, but a matter of when.  While I wish it were not so, I have reluctantly come to accept this truth.  

Depending on our experiences in life, we may be challenged to achieve flexibility and responsiveness in the face of adversity.  Our body is the container for our experiences, and the nervous system is the recording system for these experiences. And thus, the body has a natural inclination to remember the past.

Kathy Kain and Stephen Terrell explore resilience in the incredibly informative book “Nurturing Resilience.” Through their wisdom and synthesis of research, they identify factors that either foster or hinder our resilience.  There are four known elements that foster resilience in our developmental years.

  1. Supportive adult-child relationship
  2. A sense of self-efficacy and perceived control
  3. Adaptive skills and self-regulatory capacities
  4. Sources of faith, hope and cultural traditions

If one or more of these ingredients have not been part of our developmental processes, our resilience (physical, mental, emotional, social and/or spiritual) will be hampered.  And so, the question is, what do we do about it?

Understanding the impact of our life’s experiences can seem a daunting task, and we must remember that while looking back is important, we must also maintain a steady gaze forward, orienting towards our values, and finding the life force within. Healing is an inward journey, however, it is a journey that gains the most traction when externally witnessed.  This external witnessing can occur in context of therapeutic relationships, friendships, families, and groups.  

It is essential to remember that while each of our experiences are expressly unique, we all share commonalities. When we bring these experiences to a safe and supportive container, we begin to learn that we are not alone.  In this way, we begin to understand what it means to move through adversities.

Carl Jung has given apt language to the healing journey, “The right way to wholeness is made up of fateful detours and wrong turnings.” My own journey has been a winding road of blessings and adversities.  In hindsight, I appreciate my wrong turnings, and continue to be wildly grateful for the many humans who have witnessed me along the way.  My practice now is to bring curiosity to the fateful detours so that there is the possibility of enjoying the journey as it unfolds. Resilience, for me, is trusting that when I am knocked off center, the resources, practices, and people in my life will help me to find my center again and again.