In this post, I would like to introduce the beautiful language of resilience. As I have studied resilience and attended various conferences, I have highlighted words and phrases, the language of resilience, that resonate with me. These simple words and phrases are a fun and meaningful way to continue to reinforce the philosophy of resilience and design grit into our social ecologies and individual lives.
In today’s post, I will present ten words and phrases and follow up in another post with another ten. This post is Part 1 of a 2 part series.
Spaces & Places– While I was in Halifax, Nova Scotia attending the Pathways to Resilience III conference, I heard over and over again the term, “spaces and places.” The implication is that in our lives, the spaces and places that we are embedded within matter to us as it relates to resilience. For example, think about your favorite place on earth, that place where you wear a smile all day long and where you feel incredibly at peace and safe. Spaces & places are not isolated places, but connected systems and these places, a confluence of connected systems, influence our very own resilience. As we consider “resilience,” we must think about the spaces and places in our lives and how they might be influencing our resilience positively or negatively.
Narrative– Our inner language, our internal stories, matter in developing individual resilience. Our self-talk, how we relate to ourselves and the stories we tell ourselves have a tremendous impact on our wellbeing. Our internal narrative ought to be positive because as humans, we are special and worthy. If our internal narrative is not positive, it’s okay, provided we are mindful of what we are telling ourselves. Sometimes in naming what is present, what’s really there for us…it vaporizes and goes away. It’s okay to wake up and say, I lack self-confidence and be present to this internal language. The power is in being mindful of what you are telling yourself.
Are You With Me?– I noted this phrase while listening to Dr. Pilar Hernandez-Wolfe give a presentation. It means that our brains are constantly seeking and scanning the environment looking for coherence, integration, and safe relationships. We want to know of another person, “are you with me?”
Islands of Competence– While listening to Dr. Amity Noltemeyer, I noted this phrase when she spoke it. She was expressing that it is critical to identify and nurture areas of strength and competence and shift from fixing deficits to identifying and supporting individual strengths. This is a common theme in resilience studies, because it’s the genesis of how resilience science began. Early practitioners working with large groups who had undergone significant adversity noticed that many in the group did surprisingly well. Researchers began to focus on those doing well and asking “why?”, instead of focusing on the deficits of those who were not doing well. This is the basis of my recent post, Vicarious Resilience: Resilient Schools.
Resistance to Marginalization– It may be the case that those who resist the dominate culture are not in fact aberrant, it may be the case that they are incredibly resilient. When we think of street gangs, it’s likely that we have a negative perception in our mind. However, it may be the case that living and thriving in a street gang is a highly resilient process of survival in a given context. Context matters.
See Through the Darkness and Leverage What it Gives Us– This phrase comes from Dr. Bruce Ellis. He is suggesting that in considering “bullying” behavior, that we ought to consider the bully in light of their positive adaptation to stress and focus on strengths. Bullying is a representative example, in that in many situations we can see through the darkness of the person we are dealing with and leverage what we can find in the way of strengths. As school teachers can we see through each student, even the very challenging ones, and leverage the positive and bring it forward and attempt to cascade it into functional areas?
Grit is Better Than Talent– This phrase comes from Chris Byron. Chris is a Canadian school teacher working in a nature, outdoor settings with middle school students. Chris builds physical challenges that allow for failure…on purpose. He wants kids to experience failure so they know how to respond when they meet failure in life, as we all surely will. His sentence, that I wrote as a note, was this, “physical challenges foster grit, and grit is better than talent.” I liked this quote. I have heard a similar quote, “hard work beats talent when talent does not work hard.” Chris’ methodology aligns with fire department training as I discuss in my blog post, Grit.
Twin Pillars of Risk and Responsibility– This phrase comes from speech pathologist Lynn Scrimgeour working with children with autism. She is suggesting that many children are not afforded the opportunity to take risks; understanding that taking small risks and succeeding is critically important to confident, healthy child development. She states that risks and responsibilities afforded to children must be balanced. Twin Pillars. This concept surely applies to professional teachers, in that as educators we need to balance the risks we provide students with their responsibility.
Resilient Moves– I genuniely like this phrase, Resilient Moves. It comes via Josh Cameron. Josh is suggesting that as people experience adversity there will come a time when they will make a “resilient move.” They will imagine a better future, look for allies, think about future possibilities, and “move.” Consider, for example, the person working in a toxic work environment or in a toxic relationship who finally says, “enough!” Dr. Ann Masten calls these “resilient jumps.”
Risk Pile Up– This phrase is also credited to Dr. Ann Masten. It simply means that risk and adversity beget risk and adversity. It’s likely that when a person or group is experiencing adversity, there are probably several adverse systems that are piling up. Think of cultures of poverty, such as schools in low income areas of town. Poverty, crime, poor health care and nutrition, low access to services, abuse, neglect, drugs, prostitution, etc., tend to pile up together.
Above, I have shared the language of resilience in ten words and phrases that I have found compelling in resilience study. As you read them, I hope they will continue to reinforce for us what the overarching theme of “resilience” is and add to the possibilities of designing grit into our schools and other systems.