“Resilience is not a commodity you are born with, waiting silently on tap. It is self-manufactured painstakingly over time by working through your problems and never giving up, even in the face of difficulty or failure.”
― Lori Myers
A number of people have sent me emails or left comments recently following my posts Just Curious and Estranged? What Is Your ACE (Adverse Childhood Experience) Score which talk about the Adversive Childhood Experiences ACE scale and the potential connection between adversive childhood experiences and family estrangement. After completing the scale and finding their ACE score, some people have found the information quite overwhelming and have asked for some discussion about what sorts of things might provide us with resilience to overcome a higher (4+) ACE score.
I will start this by saying that the ACE website is full of information about the research, the origins of the study, the implications of the study for participants health and well-being and also about resilience, which may be seen to mediate some of the negative outcomes associated with high ACE scores. I’d really encourage everyone to have a good snoop around.
At the bottom of the page where you find the ACE scale you will also find a 14 item resilience questionnaire, which may help you to identify some of the factors which are known to contribute to people’s ability to move successfully though difficult times. Most of the items on the scale relate to our beliefs about ourselves and also about the presence of significant relationships that may have allowed us to form a view of ourselves as loveable and worthwhile people, despite any adversive experiences we may have had.
Like the actual ACE scale, the resilience scale needs to be carefully considered because:
1. People may not easily identify people or circumstances as building their resilience and may need to be supported to identify and connect with those experiences / relationships.
2. People may not identify with many of the items which are on the resilience questionnaire and still be quite resilient.
3. We need to be aware of mediating factors upon resilience such as the 10 factors I discussed in my post Our Journey Is Our Journey. In particular I would stress that a child’s developmental age / stage has significant bearing.
4. We need to understand the role that temperament, the biologically determined aspect of our personality that helps shape responses our to events in the environment and our relationships, plays with developing and maintaining resilience.
5. There are many other factors which promote resilience which are not included on the Resilience Questionnaire including things like:
– The ability to cope with stress effectively and in a healthy manner
– Having good problem-solving skills
– Willingness and confidence to seek help
– Holding the belief that there is something one can do to manage feelings and cope
– The development of emotional self-regulation skills
– Having social support
– Being connected with others, such as extended family or friends
– Self-disclosure to people who are able to hear and validate our suffering
– Having an identity as a survivor as opposed to a victim
– Helping others
– Finding positive meaning in our adversive experiences
There is a mistaken notion that resilience is something we are born, or not born with; we either have it or we don’t. In reality each of us as human beings have both resilience and vulnerability packaged in our own unique fashion. There are things that we can do to foster our resilience “after the fact”; really anything that we do that increases our resources to cope with or otherwise address the negative aspects of risk or adversity promotes, or builds resilience. Some things that we can work on right now, today, include things like:
– Maintaining supportive, fulfilling relationships with people who affirm our value and our worth
– Learning to look for opportunities for self-discovery after struggle or loss
– Developing our self-confidence in a variety of ways; work, education, sport, creativity etc.
– Learning to see that we have had the capacity to overcome previous challenges and using the information to see our capacity to overcome new challenges or problems
– Recognizing our limitations, what we can and cannot control. Learning to accept things that cannot be changed
– Developing a long-term perspective and learning to see stressful events/relationships in a broader context
– Learning to develop realistic goals and move towards them one step at a time
– Developing the confidence to take decisive actions in adverse situations or difficult relationships
– Making a commitment to practice good self-care, mind and body, needs and feelings
– Developing a belief that things can and will get better, allowing ourselves to expect good things and being able to enjoy them when they do happen
Estrangement has the capacity to condition a person to be resilient, tolerant, dependable, strong, and capable of so much more than one who knows nothing of it. It can bring out the very best in us, but also the very worst. There are many things that we can do that build our resilience and capacity to develop and maintain extrodinary relationships. The effort to do so starts with ourselves and our healing. It’s just that simple, and that complex.