Defining the Term “Resilience”

Resiliency is a word that is used a lot in our work. A common definition of “resiliency” is the ability to spring back to shape after adversity.

The goal of this training is to support the growth of your personal resiliency AND give you the tools to be able to support others to be more resilient.

In the Canadian Journal of Psychiatry article Rethinking Resilience from Indigenous Perspectives (2011) the authors talk about the resiliency of nature.

In psychology, resilience is commonly framed as an individual trait or process rather than emphasizing its systemic or ecological roots. Resilience has been associated with individual psychological characteristics including hardiness, flexibility, problem- solving ability, intelligence, sense of humour, and social skills. Although resilience tends to be framed as an individual characteristic, it may also have systemic, collective, or communal dimensions. At the level of family and community, resilience may reside in the durability of interpersonal relationships in the extended family and wider social networks of support. What is needed then are alternative frameworks that take into account the dynamic processes on many levels that may confer on the individual, communities, and whole peoples better prospects for survival and positive development. (Rethinking Resilience From Indigenous Perspectives, The Canadian Journal of Psychiatry, Vol 56, No 2, February 2011)

Let’s look to nature to support a deeper understanding of resiliency. When we think of adversity in nature, it tends to show up as a disturbance to the ecology, such as a fire, storm, flood or other extreme weather event. These events impact the whole ecology, not just one plant or tree.

Living things have a deep-seated need to flourish and thrive.

When impacted by adversity, our resiliency might not be about springing back to “normal” but about adapting and creating something new.

When we consider adversity in the forest, we look at the interconnection of all living things. Nothing in nature exists in isolation. Nature is dynamic, always changing and growing. Even after a devastating wildfire, nature adapts, heals, and regrows over time.

Resiliency looks more like this ability to adapt and change in the midst of adversity. For example, when a tree is damaged and loses a large branch, that branch doesn’t grow back as it was. The bark seals, and sometimes a new branch is formed.

Consider the similarity of a tree’s resiliency to our own emotional resiliency. When we experience extreme adversity, trauma, or loss in our own lives, we won’t ever be exactly the same as we were before. Our resilience then is not attached to becoming what we were before, but it’s about adapting and creating new ways to thrive and grow.

As with the diversity within a forest, it is important for us to consider the value and impact of our loved ones and communities on our adaptability. If we don’t have a strong community, how can we begin to develop one?

Following adversity, we will heal and grow in new ways, but we will be forever changed. Different. Possibly wiser, and perhaps stronger and more able to face adversity in the future.

For Reflection

  • How do you define resiliency?
  • What are some examples of your own resiliency?
  • How does community and connection show up in your resiliency? Write down some specific examples.
  • Draw a picture of what resiliency in nature means to you



Icon for the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License

Post-Secondary Peer Support Training Curriculum Copyright © 2022 by Jenn Cusick is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

Share This Book