If you're suddenly confronted with a negative experience, how would you react to the situation?
There are two kinds of people.
Those who complain and want to go back to the past,
In response to COVID19, We see people that yearn for things to go back to the way things were, those that tell a chaos narrative and those that have accepted the pandemic and embraced the quest to move forward.
And how do they do it? Resilience.
Resilience has been defined as “the ability to persist, cope adaptively and bounce back after encountering change, challenges, setback, disappointments, difficult situations or adversity and to bounce back to a reasonable level of wellbeing".
Does a negative experience have to result in negative outcomes? Not if you have resilience to turn it into post-traumatic growth.
Those who experience Post Traumatic Growth People become stronger, wiser, and more resilient in spite of their adversity.
Research shows there many areas for growth that emerged in people who have experienced traumatic situations including:
Cultivation of meaningful relationships.
Appreciation for life.
A study looking Post-Traumatic Growth Experiences among COVID-19 Confirmed Cases in China published this year showed that those who recovered growth including positive changes in their attitudes about life, improving relationships and re-evaluating values and goals.
The COVID-19 infection let me think about what is most important to me. I told my wife that no matter what happens in the future, the most important thing is to stay together. . ..This experience caused me to re-evaluate the meaning of life and changed my values, especially the family value. The epidemic really made you feel that your home was there, but you couldn’t go back to it. Staying together with my spouse and children is the most important thing in my life. (38-year-old, male, married)
What happens if you don't do anything?
In his book, The Body Keeps the Score, Van der Kolk, explains how trauma and its resulting stress harms us through physiological changes to body and brain, and that those harms can persist throughout life.
In the mid-1980s, Steven Maier and Martin Seligman performed a famous experiment about “learned helplessness” with dogs. They repeatedly administered painful shocks to dogs who were trapped in locked cages, triggering a condition called “inescapable shock.” After the cages were opened, dogs who had been previously shocked didn’t run away. They simply laid there, whimpering and defecating.
This famous experiment sheds light on what happens with trauma in humans: opening the pathway to freedom doesn’t necessarily mean they take it. Rather, they often just give up rather than experimenting with unknowns.
Do you want to become a more resilient individual?
Think about a challenge in your life. Are you complaining or embracing the new normal?
Maybe the pandemic has cut your business. Or it has changed your entire lifestyle.
But so what?
I haven't visited the gym in since Jan 2020, but I'm fitter, stronger and more confident. I'm willing to take on challenges.
Take on a challenge in your life.
If it doesn't challenge you, it doesn't change you.
Resilience is a key ingredient to success across different aspects of life. And you can develop it too - on an individual and organizational level. If you want to build resilient teams at your organization, check Inspire2Aspire's workshop on Building Emotional Resilience.
Check out our video about the relationship between challenge and change:
Sun, W., Chen, W.-T., Zhang, Q., Ma, S., Huang, F., Zhang, L., & Lu, H. (2021). Post-Traumatic Growth Experiences among COVID-19 Confirmed Cases in China: A Qualitative Study. Clinical Nursing Research. https://doi.org/10.1177/10547738211016951
Frank, A. W. (2013). The wounded storyteller: Body, illness, and ethics. University of Chicago Press.
Babbel, S. “Post Traumatic Stress Disorder After 9/11 and Katrina.” Psychology Today, 2011. Retrieved from https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/somaticpsychology/201109/post-traumatic-stress-disorder-after-911-and-katrina.
Van der Kolk, B. A. (1994). The body keeps the score: Memory and the evolving psychobiology of posttraumatic stress. Harvard review of psychiatry, 1(5), 253-265.