Is resilience not an innate, natural human potential to ‘bounce back’, a reaction or competence developed as an after-effect from a stressful situation? These are some of many common responses elicited when discussions on resilience emerges. It almost seems as if resilience is perceived and expected to be a part of an autonomic nervous system, similar to the fight or flight response. Activated when stress is detected, allowing for the system to reach equilibrium or homeostasis as soon as resilience emerges as if to neutralise stress. In addition to being a rather erroneous and idealistic view, this type of perception thrusts individuals who fail to achieve ‘serenity’ soon after stress, into a deeper psychological disturbances or self-depreciation.
Perhaps the operational question should be about resilience’s relevance or the difference it can make in the domains of mental health. If it does, writing a psychological resilience treatment manual would be the natural progression and a vital one to a larger solution. Easily underestimated but definitely underutilised, the conceptualisation of resilience is currently reduced to a ‘buzz word’, inaccurately perceived to be an alternative way of reinventing risks and protection
On the contrary, resilience is better understood as a process that reflects the influence between the individual and their environment. The study of resilience attempts to investigate the difference between individuals and their responses to similar experiences and the underlying mechanisms of these variations. These variations then proceed to be stepping stones for effective construction of prevention and treatment interventions.
The potential for individuals to be trained to conceptualise a personal ‘go-to resilience tool-box‘ that allows them to add and remove thoughts and behaviours that either worked for them or not, as they go along their lives attempting to be productive or as adaptive as possible, is not entirely far-fetched.
The possibility of conceptualising resilience further as a ‘Force Multiplier of Human Capacity‘ may be in the horizon. According to the Cambridge English Dictionary, force multiplier is defined as ‘something that increases the effect of a force’. Perhaps resilience is potentially the tool that amplifies personal or communal capacity and abilities, increasing effectiveness of the individual or system
While researchers have theorised that psychological resilience is a buffer to mental health adversities and a protective factor from the negative effects of stress, the available resilience-training programmes that are found in literature reviews are based solely on hypothetical views and are not tested to build evidence-based resilience interventions. An effective resilience training intervention will need to reflect the effects of personal, work, family, and community on an individual’s ability to change and sustain through adversities.
My research efforts are geared to achieve just that. The fundamental of engineering a Psychological Resilience Treatment Manual (PRTM) begins with utilising a dynamic intervention model. The Three-Part Model of Psychological Resilience, a New Zealand-based resilient model with scientifically robust primary constructs (Cognitions, Behaviour and Environment) and sub-constructs (Optimism, Adaptive Coping, Adaptive Behaviour, and Social support) is well suited to fulfil potential in increasing psychological resilience and adaptation in individuals.
Ensuing this, PRTM employs the well-established Stress Inoculation Training (SIT) as the primary therapy model along with other contemporary supplementary models to enhance overall psychological resilience of the selected population.
A 16-week psychological resilience intervention sessions will be tailored made for the eclectic population, a full representation of the New Zealand people ranging from the public, university students to high-risk occupation population and trauma population.
The bigger aspiration of this research is to emphasise the importance of focusing on resilience-building constructs in increasing human potential and their capacity to successfully sustain viability, function and development during difficult times.
Incorporating resilience-enhancing interventions in government policies such as in Education, Human-resources, Health, and other important domains will potentially have large positive implication such as improving mental and physical health, increasing national productivity, and overall general well-being.
So nay or yay, resilience is a human capacity and potential that is accessible and should be further explored.
Sara Chettiar is a clinical psychologist by training from the National University of Malaysia since 2008, and is currently pursuing her PhD at Massey University.