In my post on Resilience, I defined resilience using the definition provided by Dr. Ann S. Masten,
The capacity of a dynamic system to adapt successfully to disturbances that threaten system function, viability, or development.
I simplified her definition and defined resilience as: Adversity + Doing well = Resilience.
Today, I want to write about “pathways to resilience.” Let’s say that a “system,” be it human or organization, experiences adversity. What is the pathway that an individual or organization can or will take that leads to resilience?
For starters, there are no cookie cutter recipes for doing well after adversity. Everyone must navigate their own path to well-being and each path will be unique. Also, and importantly, there are no timelines associated with doing well. While one person may do well following adversity within a few weeks, it may take another person 20 years.
On top of this, doing well may be a “place” that ebbs and flows, two steps forward, one step backward.
In general, however, concerning pathways to resilience, there are four broad pathways in considering resilience and adaption (doing well) after adversity.
A. In this pathway, a person, or system, is humming along doing fine. An adverse, traumatic event happens, and they just keep humming along like nothing happened.
B. In this pathway, a person is humming along, they experience an adverse event, and they have a dip in their doing-wellness. Who knows how long, but after a period of time they adapt successfully to the disturbance and carry on and do well.
C. This is the pathway that some call Post Traumatic Growth, PTG. A a system is humming along, trauma occurs, and they dip for a period of time, and then explode and do much better than they ever have. They grow tremendously from the experience.
D. This is the pathway that may be concerning, but maybe not. It appears that the person is humming along, an adverse event happens, and they do well for a period of time afterward and then drop off and begin to not do so well. However, as I stated, it may take a person 20 years to regain doing-wellness. We must be careful in passing another judgement, which is deciding how long it should take a system to regain equilibrium after disturbance.
I think what I would like to say here, again, is that we will all face adversity in our lives. It is the nature of the human experience to suffer,
On par, almost everyone who experiences adversity will regain balance and equilibrium. This is good news. But my cautionary questions are:
- Who decides what an “adverse” experience is and why would they define it as such, what is their interest?
- Who decides what “doing well” is and what is their interest in defining it as such?
- Finally, there is no timeline that should be placed on an individual, especially, or another system for defining “when” they should be doing well.
In closing, if you are experiencing some shit, you are the only person who can say with certitude that your shit was an adverse experience and you are the only person who knows when you are doing well and you are the only person who decides in what time frame your doing-wellness may happen.
When (not if, but when) you experience adversity, go easy on yourself. Take your time, do it your way. You will heal. In all cases, be kind to yourself.