A Coaching Power Tool Created by Bana Biri
(Women from the Middle East Coach, CANADA)
Resilience is what helps us to adapt well, cope and bounce back quickly in times of adversities, challenges, setbacks, disappointments, and failures.
The definition of Resilience as per Merriam- Webster is “the ability of something to return to its original shape after it has been pulled, stretched, pressed, bent, etc.”
According to the American Psychology Association, Resilience is the process of adapting well in the face of adversity, trauma, tragedy, threats or significant sources of stress — such as family and relationship problems, serious health problems or workplace and financial stressors. It means “bouncing back” from difficult experiences.
As per The Resilience Institution: “Building resilience mitigates problems like depression, distress and illness and It liberates the potential in our people to be well, effective and whole.” Similarly, the Clinical psychologist, Christina G. Hibbert, Psy. D. defines it as “the ability to bounce back after life tears you down.”
So, why Resilience?
We live in a world where change is the norm and it’s not possible to be protected and isolated from fear, risks, downtimes, death of friends and loved ones, illness, divorce or war and disasters. Resilience will equip us with the tools needed to respond to challenges and adversities. As per Karen Reivich, Resilient people are not afraid of challenges, they succeed in spite of challenges and push themselves to their limits and expand their horizons. The question is how?
7 keys to finding resilience:
As per The Resilience Factor Author, Karen Reivich, there are seven skills of resilience and they fall into two categories:
Know thyself – Change skills
The know thyself skills:
- Learning your ABC’s: identify what we say to ourselves when we are faced with adversities.
- Avoiding thinking traps
- Detecting Icebergs: detect underlying beliefs and when they help and hurt
These three skills help us how we see ourselves and the world but they are not sufficient to make changes in our lives so we need the next four skills.
The Change Skills:
- Problem Solving: challenge beliefs/ thinking strategies
- Put things into perspective: make sure not to catastrophize/ minimize
- Calming and Focusing: stay calm when overwhelmed by emotions
- Real-Time Resilience: change counterproductive thoughts into more resilient ones
Those keys can help us understand our internal dynamics, understand the situation, think of how to deal with it, decide what’s needed and what’s possible to be done (realistic goals) then decide how and when to take actions.
For me, resilience is a sort of alchemy. It’s the possibility to become strong and valuable, after being challenged with adversities. I see it similar to melting gold.
We kind of “melt” under the “heat & pressure” of the trauma but, soon, we get back solid as you were before with more purpose, meaning and values. Our core remains the same and maybe more valuable. We become stronger with a story to tell and wisdom to share. We will have more reasons to move on and feel more worthy.
The level of resilience determines how quickly we get back up when the air knocks us. It helps us push through life’s circumstances and meet challenges head-on.
More specific definition by Merriam Webster is: “Resistance by definition: a psychological defence mechanism wherein a patient rejects, denies, or otherwise opposes the therapeutic efforts of a psychotherapist”
Resistance in a situation may involve being fixated on one perspective, idea, belief, understanding or emotion and these cases create a sort of stuckness with little or no ability to move forward. Resistance may also lead to victimhood. “I can’t do anything, it’s their fault”. Resistance can be due to the fact of believing some thoughts and not recognising the distortion or the thinking trap and emotionally can be of it being able to name the emotion or manage it.
Resisting adversities is very similar to resisting change. Inspired by Lisa Quast, and her understanding of people’s resistance in the corporate field, I could define the below similar reasons in life generally.
- Fear of the unknown/surprise: when change is perceived as negative change leave people with uncertainty about how this will affect their lives.
- Mistrust: If the individuals of others around you.
- Loss of control: This type of resistance often occurs when things are out of our hands and we can’t be sure what will happen next and what could be.
- The subjective perspective of change: Some people enjoy change because it provides them with an opportunity to learn new things and grow personally and professionally.
The science behind stuckness
Dr Jena Field gave us a scientific perspective that helps us understand stuckness and resistance. Because of our evolutionary predisposition, specifically, our old (emotional) brain and Amygdala, We react to adversities with four reactions: fight, flight, freeze and fawn.
“Fight. Sometimes, it doesn’t necessarily mean that we lash out; rather we may become resistant or defensive, this is for our own safety.
Flight. To avoid stressors we might withdraw. If we think that resistance will not protect us or if the resulting conflict seems too scary, we may internalise or suppress our fear and frustration. As a result, we feel anxious and/or depressed.
Freeze. We feel stuck, unable to move forward, so we don’t do anything.
Fawn. Submission is a less common protective reaction. Fawn can come in the form of subservience or people-pleasing.”
From my personal experience, moving to Canada required from me a lot of resilience.
It’s moving to the unknown with my family to a place that no one knows us, no credit score, no job, no community, no belongings and no previous experience about how living in this country looks like.
Among those changes, my so, who’s 12 years old now, was bullied at school. He was a new student in a new environment and it was tough for him. The school offered to change his class after some intervention, he refused. He said that he needs to know how to face it because there’s no guarantee that he won’t face another bully in the new class and I supported his choice.
As this was a very new and emotionally tough experience for him. I used coaching skills to help him:
Goal 1. Understand himself
- What was the most stressful for him?
- What did he felt? (Holding the space for him to express his feelings and help him label them)
- How can he manage his feelings?
- Breathing Techniques and meditations.
- What could be a possible motivation for the bully?
- Is it possible to have empathy towards the bully?
- What is his character strength?
- How can he use them during that time?
- How can he regain confidence in himself?
- How can he experience self-compassion?
Goal 2: Understanding the situation/ Create change/ Design actions
- Decide what was fair for him?
- What’s the possible action that he can take?
- How he can deal with the bully at the time of conflict or clash?
- What are the boundaries during any clash?
- What are the possibilities?
- How can he handle each one?
- Who understands him and support him at school?
The good news is that he made it! He was able to neutralize the relationship with the bully after a few months and was able to have many friends.
This year, he nominated himself to be in the Student Parliament. The first thing in his campaign was ” Anti-bullying strategies and emotional support for victims”. Now, knowing how to deal with bullies is mentioned as a “strength”.
He said I’ve been there, I managed to get out of it well, I can help others”.
How can we help the client build resilience?
As I mentioned earlier, we need to focus on the main 2 categories: knowing thyself and creating change. Especially, the thinking traps and the emotional part. In addition to the previous questions. We can add several ones such as:
- How were you able to move forward in a previous similar situation?
- What is the strength of the personal characters that helped you?
- How can you use your character strength to move forward?
- What is your assumption about yourself, your circumstances and others?
- How can you reframe your assumption?
- What can you use to help someone going through a similar experience?
- What are the resources that can help you navigate through the difficulty?
American Psychology Association: https://www.apa.org/helpcenter/road-resilience
The Resilience Institute: https://resiliencei.com/our-story/
The University of Illinois ”Springfield: https://www.uis.edu/counselingcenter/wp-content/uploads/sites/87/2013/04/the_road_to_resilience.pdf
Business Community: https://www.business2community.com/strategy/build-emotional-resistance-01621221
Resilience Research Center:
Forbes: Resistance to change:
The Resilience Factor:
Science Behind Stuckness: