Resilience – the ability to bounce back after adversity

Questions related to resilience have interested psychologists for many years. Why is it that some children born in chaotic families go on to have successful lives while others fail to thrive?

Where do narcissistic abuse survivors get the strength to “bounce back” and overcome the damage that narcissists have inflicted upon them? How do they overcome the damage inflicted by the abuse, such as negative self talk and the resulting low self esteem?

The answer is resilience, which is defined by psychologists as the process of adapting to the difficult circumstances that life throws at you. This ability is critical for surviving and healing after experiencing adversity, including the trauma caused by narcissistic abuse.

In order to understand this phenomenon we have to keep in mind that a child is born with a number of innate protective factors and vulnerabilities. Protective factors include characteristics such as high intelligence or good temperament. Vulnerabilities are traits such as allergies or a genetic predisposition to be aggressive. It is this mix of factors that impact the resilience of a person.

What is resilience?

Resilience is the ability to cope with stress and adversity. It is a process that involves bouncing back from difficult experiences.

Resilience is important because it helps us to cope with life’s challenges. It enables us to overcome adversity and emerge stronger from tough experiences.

What factors contribute to resilience?

There are a number of factors that contribute to resilience. These include:

A positive outlook on life – This involves having hope and seeing the good in people and situations. It also includes having a sense of humour.

A support network – This is a group of people who you can rely on for help and advice. This could be family, friends or professionals such as a therapist.

A sense of self-efficacy – This is the belief that you can cope with whatever life throws at you. It includes having confidence in your ability to problem-solve and overcome obstacles.

Flexibility – This is the ability to adapt to change. It involves being able to roll with the punches and go with the flow.

Can resilience be learned?

The answer to this very important question is yes. Just as one can work to acquire new skills, so can a person develop new strategies to overcome adversity. The following areas are a good place to start.

  1. Develop a strong support network. Human beings are social animals and we need human connections to remind us that we are not alone. Join one of the many online narcissistic abuse survivor communities to connect with people who have experienced the same trauma as you have. Share your story and listen to theirs. The support of these communities will strengthen your resilience when the going gets tough.
  2. Take care of yourself and improve your lifestyle. Proper nutrition, sufficient sleep and exercise can work wonders for your mental health. Avoid self-medicating with alcohol or drugs. In the long run they will only make your situation worse, not better.
  3. Focus on the positive. Yes life can throw a spanner into the works at times, but when that happens it is important to keep a sense of perspective. Things might be bad right now, but in time they will be better. Instead of giving up, come up with small goals you can achieve to make positive progress. Step by step you will overcome.
  4. Ask for help. Sometimes the problem is too big for you to resolve on your own. There is no shame in reaching out to a therapist or trusted professional for help.

Resilience is ultimately the result of a number of coping strategies and behaviours. Some might come to us naturally, thanks to the lottery of life. Others can be developed. It will not be easy since you will have to change ingrained thinking patterns and go outside your comfort zone. However the end result is well worth it and will greatly improve the quality of your life.

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