Resilience

Resilience: Resilience, while easy enough to conceptualize and imagine, proves a bit more elusive to define. In a 2015 article, the Harvard Business Review described resilience as "the ability to recover from setbacks, adapt well to change, and keep going in the face of adversity.”

An online Business dictionary defines resilience as, 1. “The ability of a material to resume its original size and shape after a deformation.2. The ability of equipment, a machine, or system to absorb the impact of the failure of one or more components or a significant disturbance in its environment, and to still continue to provide an acceptable level of service."

If we’re talking about machines, materials, and natural resources, resilience refers to the measure of material to endure deformation and recover its original size and shape. 

However, when we talk about people and resilience, particularly when we talk about major life-altering events like combat trauma, contrary to prior assumptions, people are more likely to show significant declines in measures of well-being that may last for some time, even several years. With people and resilience, how we choose to define resilience is important. Is it the absence of a diagnosis? the absence of symptoms? or the absence of PTSD? If a person has some resilience and some symptoms, are they still resilient? 

So, resilience for people, in terms of retaining an original form and shape, is somewhat problematic when we encounter significant trauma. What do we do, for example, when measures of well-being, and even our estimates of ourselves, are based on whether or not we can retain, or at least return to, some “original” position? What if our original position involved assumptions based on somewhat naive beliefs about the world, the kindness of strangers, or whether we can protect ourselves from dangers outside of our control? 

In the face of significant trauma(s), instead of focusing on enduring deformation and returning to some original size or shape, which is often impossible and sometimes undesirable, what if we began a conversation about reconstruction. What if we began reconstructing a different set of assumptions that could accommodate risk and danger in a complicated world? or could assimilate woundedness and trauma? These are the conversations we are interested in at VetGR in our work with combat veterans. These are the conversations we believe are worth having to resurrect purpose and significance in the hearts and minds of combat veterans and to help them transition to civilian life. Won't you join us today and stand with us as we stand with veterans?