Resilience Over The Life Span
Why do some people seem to be able not only to survive when exposed to trauma, negative events, and seemingly insurmountable obstacles, but also to grow and develop from these experiences? They seem to possess what mental health professionals call psychological resiliency.
Studies in children have shown that resilient survivors of negative experiences, such as living in alcoholic, abusive, or impoverished environments, develop a mental toughness. These children maintain a sense of humor and empathy toward others, possess qualities of optimism and persistence and seem to be able to deflect unwarranted criticism.
They also possess good problem- solving and decision- making skills such as the ability to plan, think creatively, and understand the consequences of their behavior. Being self-reliant, these young people develop a sense of independence early in their lives. They believe that they can control the outcome of their decisions and that life’s events are not purely random.
Research studies with psychologically resilient adults during their middle adult years reveal the ability to deal more effectively with stress when compared to non-resilient adults. This group of people feels that their efforts will influence the outcome of their objectives, and they will have a commitment to the most important things in their lives such as marriage, families, health, and jobs. A spiritual connectedness is also present in the majority of these individuals. Rather than feeling threatened, psychologically resilient adults are challenged by change and are generally free from pervasive distrust, cynicism, and hostility.
During the second half of life, age fifty and beyond, older adults are often able to decrease the number of things that concerned them in their younger years. They have adopted the ability to let go of the myriad of details, activities and events that drove them earlier in life. Resilient older adults have developed and applied specific problem-solving skills. They are able to define the “important” things, set healthier priorities, and deal effectively with these issues. This same resilient group of people is often seen as being more tolerant in accepting imperfection in others. They tend to manage their moods well, are even tempered and strive for self-reliance. They also resist being overly dependent on others but are willing to accept help when needed.
Psychological resiliency seems to enhance healthy aging and should be added to other health enhancing behaviors such as a healthy diet, effective stress management, an adequate amount of sleep, avoiding social isolation and exercising routinely.
Harold H. LeCrone, Jr., Ph.D. Copyright © 2010