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The Definition and Concept of Resilience

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Everybody has to face a stressful situation or traumatic incidents at some point in their lives but people deal with these difficult situations differently. Some people get drained, emotional and exhausted while others cope and deal head on with the situation. People generally adapt well over time to life changing situations and being resilient can enables them to do so.

The word resilience is derived from the present participle of the Latin word resilīre to spring back, rebound which originated between 1620 and 1630. Resilience is a concept that has strong meaning in the terms of social care work. It is a difficult term to define as it used perfunctory and cursory. This makes the concept of resilience an elusive term as it is used differently depending on the person’s view. Gilligan (1997) defines it as a process that helps a person “cope, survive and even thrive in the face of great hurt and disadvantage” whereas Fonagy et al, (1994) defines it as an outcome “resilience is the normal development under difficult conditions”. Like Gilligan, the American Psychological Association state that “Resilience is the process of adapting the face of adversity, trauma, tragedy, threats, or even significant sources of stress”. An individual who adapts well to stress at college or work, may not have the ability to adapt well in their personal life or in their relationships. Resilience can be seen as an absence of psychological symptoms when facing adversity and the possession of positive adaptability that enables a person to thrive in a vulnerable or stressful situation. ‘Resilient people have the capacity to be bent without breaking and the capacity, once bent, to spring back’. People who are resilient have both internal and external adaptable qualities and are better equipped to deal with stress and adversity, cope with change and uncertainty and recover faster and more completely from difficult situations. This does not mean that people who are resilient and appear to cope in some circumstances have the ability to cope in every situation.

A social care worker has to possess the ability to have a positive outlook in a situation and be able to manage the stressor that they face. There is many behaviours related to the resilience of a social care practitioner. They need to be able to understanding and value the meaning of what they do as a career from caring with an elderly client to working with a vulnerable youth. It is important that a social care practitioner gets on with the people around them and maintains a sense of humour and perspective when things go wrong or situations are stressful. They have to be able to take a problem-solving approach when in a difficult situation and be flexible and willing to adapt to change and to learn from it. All while drawing on a range of strategies to help cope with pressure and recognising their thoughts and emotions.

Resilient people still experience negativity, such as feeling anger, frustration or anxiety, but are able to balance them with positive experiences and emotions and put it into perspective. These positive experiences build and enhance a person’s ability to thrive, thus leading to resilience. To developing your personal emotional resilience takes time and effort, but is essential to the wellbeing of a social care worker. Personal resilience includes protecting your own physical and mental health, coping with stress effectively, engaging supportive relationships, being positive and having clear boundaries that separates home and work life. Many factors have been shown to be associated with resilience and coping, some intrinsic and some extrinsic. Extrinsic protective factors are elements of a person’s environment that assist them to become resilient and feel valuable and worthwhile and a person’s behaviours and thoughts are changed to suit the environment they are in. Many aspects of a person’s life enable them to develop resilient traits to use later in life. Bridgit Daniel (2003) identifies three protective factors that have been shown to be associated with better outcomes for a young person, these are, least one secure attachment relationship, 2. access to wider supports such as extended family and friends and 3. a positive nursery, school and or community experience. A secure relationship for a person means good interactions that leave the person feeling love, affection and care. A positive relationship at any stage in life can help improve poor self-concept and having a person who will take an interest and listen to you, who will love and care for you and make you feel better can boost your self-esteem. A person who does not get any attention or acknowledgement at home from parents may lack self-confidence but if an extended relative takes an interest, a teacher or mentor appears concerned and caring, or a social care worker communicates with kindness and consistency they can develop a feeling of self-work.

Intrinsic factors can be identified by three key features: A secure base where a child feels a sense of belonging and security 2. Good self-esteem, that gives a person an internal sense of worth and competence and 3. A sense of self-efficacy, a and control and understanding of personal strengths and limitations. These three features can be summed up as enabling somebody to say “ I have…, I can…, I am ..”. “These features of resilience may seem obvious and easy to acquire; but they are not.” Many people are not resilient as they are not or were not encouraged or given the tools to help them be as a child or adolescent. To foster resilience a social care worker must pay attention to different domains in the person’s life that could help them to evaluate and identify ways to strengthen these key features. The domains they should look at are: a secure attachment relationships, education, friendships, talents and interests, positive values and social competencies “Research into factors associated with resilience has led to the development of a number of guiding frameworks for intervention”. These interventions and frameworks agree that social care workers should focus on “Altering or reducing a child’s exposure to risk” to the best of their ability while still allowing them to face situations and built resilience, reduce the “chain reaction or pile up” of stressors as much as possible and make sure new opportunities and resources available to children. A resilience based intervention is an alternative framework that looks at a person’s potential areas of strength and encourages their relationships, interests, talent, education and values. It aims to “maximising the likelihood of a better outcome for young people by building a protective network around them”. Social care workers should follow five strategies have been identified by Masten (1995) “intervention and nurturing” resilience, these involve, reducing vulnerability and risk, reducing the number of stressors and ‘pile-up’, increase the available resources, mobilise protective processes and fostering resilience strings. They must also be aware that if there is an improvement in one domain it can have a positive effect on another.

Until now interventions aim to amend damages done instead of focusing on the strengths and talents the person possess. Although the outcome of using a resilience approach intervention has not been fully investigated the outcome for focusing on a person’s strengths and not their defects may be a better approach in the long-term. ”While there is a strong evidence base identifying the types of factors that denote resilience, rather less is known about resilience processes and the ways in which we can intervene to influence them”.

The road to resilience cannot be walked without confronting some pain or trauma. Everybody has to face a stressful situation or traumatic incidents at some point in their lives but people deal with these difficult situations differently. “Persistence and resilience only come from having been given the chance to work through difficult problems.” Developing resilience is a personal journey as not everybody reacts the same to when faced with adversity. Building resilience cannot be done by following a formula as what works for one person might not work for another and people respond to varying strategies. From this essay I can conclude that people’s reactions can vary and as some people may find themselves drained, emotional and exhausted, while other, adapt and scope and deal head on with the situation. People generally adapt well over time to life changing situations and being resilient can enables them to do so.

As evident from this essay resilience is a term that is in the eye of the beholder. No fixed term can be used to define it. Researcher and psychologists in the area all have their own views in what it is and how it is acquired but in general it is agreed that resilience is an ability that can be fostered and acquired throughout a person’s life time that allows them cope, survive and thrive when faced with adversity.

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