Your Questions About Resilience

Thank you for joining others in our quest for Resilience.

If you have a question about resilience that you would like Judye to answer please let us know your question by sending us an email. You can find a form to ask your question on our contact page.

Important Please Read. As members of this site Judye asks that you help her in the mission of changing the way everyone thinks about resilience. As you and I will affect each others resilience Judye also asks that we each respect the other persons resilience and wisely use the knowledge  that Judye provides freely for assisting others. You may share or use this work but please let others know where it came from, please do not claim it as your own.  Please do not copy, paste or share this work without reference to its source.  Please cite all work as  Margetts J,  (the membership page and the date you downloaded or copied from this site). Any answers to the Resilience Questions that has reference to other sites will appear in the Reference List at the bottom of the page.

Your Resilience Question  (YRQ)

YRQ: Is resilience a naturally occurring or a trait?

No. Although many websites that I have reviewed consider that resilience is a naturally occurring feature of personality for some people or is a trait that some have and others do not have, such views are not supported by resilience research. Be careful of assertions that some people have resilience and that other people can learn to be resilient.  We all need to learn to be resilient no one is born naturally resilient.  The truth is that some people learn about resilience early in life and other people learn later in life. The reasons are many and as you read our blogs and the answers to these questions you will gain greater insight into the reasons why we must all learn about resilience.

YRQ: People say that it only takes positive thought to overcome issues and make me resilient, is that true?

Positive thinking is very important and despite the recent research and focus on positive thinking as a new mental health approach, positive thinking has been around as a concept even before 1970.  Positive thoughts/thinking regularly gets refined or rewritten as something new for new generations.

Positive thinking is very important to your mental health, but it is wrong to suggest that if we think positively then we will overcome the distress we currently feel. Trauma or adversity (large or small) leaves a permanent change in our lives that must be managed.  Loss and grief are normal and real aspects of recovery following adversity.  When we have sufficient adversity, it is not simply resolved with positive thinking.  Those who struggle to cope with adversity need a variety of tools to learn and use to develop or maintain resilience.

YRQ:  So once I have learned the skills that make me resilient, can I always rely on these skills in all situations?

Unfortunately, life does not come knocking on our door at the start of the day and advise us that our life may change today. Nor does it allow us to be ready for the changes that require our adaption.   Generally, each and every life experience is a different experience which is governed by time, place or person (me or you) and calls for different levels of adaption. Resilience does not rely on certain skills to be used in certain situations but on a total supportive way of managing life events both internally and externally.


YRQ: My friends offer advice when I talk through a problem with them, but somehow this advice does not seem to fit with my situation. What is the problem and how does this impact my resilience.

The events that have meaning to us and require us to adapt may not have any meaning or impact on another person. People generally only have the ability to find resources from within their own life experiences. This means that if they have not experienced the same issues or life events that you have they may not understand  “the direction from which you are coming”. At times where this understanding between friends fails it is important to extract the well meaning nature of the help sought and given and seek additional or professional advice to help you cope with these events.

For example:  The Black Saturday bushfires of 7 February 2009, devastated the towns of Marysville, King Lake and all the surrounding regions and towns.  Hundreds of people were made homeless in a matter of minutes, losses of entire families and pets were shattering. As a volunteer on the days following I was interested by the amount of resilience that was present, and the way people were able to share a community experience in this situation resilience emerged by the common situation that all had been through and a common understanding of the pain, suffering and loss.  Therefore we cannot underestimate the importance of social ties. However,  when we journey through an experience on our own we lose the idea that others care. To help ourselves at time when the advice of others does not seem to fit or help us we need to be prepared to accept what little they can offer, keep what helps, leave what does not help. For those seeking to support someone who has experienced a life event, care is critical, yet because we may not have been though the same experience offering a simple acknowledgement that we don’t understand can be more supportive than offering a well-meaning or positive solution.

YRQ: Why are positive solutions and thinking positively not helpful to resilience?

Always remember that positive thinking and positive solutions do have their place and are good. However, it can be hard to talk about the events or aspects of life that are upsetting to us.  With every change comes some loss and some regret for that loss, this makes thinking positively very difficult. The person needs to take their own journey to process the loss (regardless of the size of the change), and will benefit from validating support that you can offer.

YRQ:    Most sites talk about stress and its management and that this helps us be resilient. But I do not see how the stress and it’s management is linked to my resilience.

Stress is a word that encapsulates the many different pressure points that arise from the day by day living of our life. Stress may come from within ourselves and our thinking, our emotional management or lack of emotional, and or our behaviours.  It may come from people around us who cannot handle situations, their own emotions, the emotions of others or are themselves stressed.  The impact other people have on you and the impact you have on others is crucial to stress build up and stress reduction in both you and the other person.

The relationship of stress and its management with resilience comes about as we make choices when change occurs. “Actions have consequences” and our resilience or lack thereof hinges on our decisions, plans and the completion of those plans (actions have consequences). Our choices when stressed have consequences, if we take time to consider the consequences of our actions we would find our own and our friends resilience is influenced.

For example,  I can use the awareness of “actions have consequences” to either harm or help myself or others.

If I want to feel resilient and in control of my life my consequences can be good when I make better choices and take better actions.

If on the other hand I want to destroy myself further or others because my life feels so disrupted and destroyed then my resilience will be damaged by using my own actions to create adverse consequences for myself or others.

A good example of this is bullying, often it is the case that the bullied either dies physically or emotionally and sometimes they become the bullier. That is the person who is bullied is so destroyed by bullying that their action is either to take their own life (which has the most devastating of consequences) or turn their anger on others and so they become the bully (often in order to defend themselves from further attack).

Managing stress means managing the way we interact with ourselves and others, managing our emotions, managing our thinking, including our negative thoughts, making good decisions and plans, being productive and looking to the future and being self-caring.

YRQ: There is such a focus on being self-caring, independent, and in control of our lives this all sounds good but can it all go wrong too?

This is a very good question and has probably so many aspects to explore.  Yes, in 2018 we live in a society that has learned to be strong independent, assertive, and focussed on our own better health.

Sometimes all these positive aspects of being human can also be negative aspects.  For example, self care which involves looking after ourselves and making sure we are feeling safe, secure and happy may mean that we do not think that others have the same goals in mind. Being independent is great but we sometimes forget that we need others too and that the connection we strive for with other people is driven by a biological imperative to be social with others. Being assertive, often becomes being aggressive toward others and road rage and disregard for road rules would be a good example, where one driver feels that breaking the road rules is not necessarily a bad thing if you don’t get caught.  Finally when focussed on our own better health we may not give consideration to the impact we can make on others better health by being so over self focussed. An example of this might occur when you have made a meeting arrangement with a friend,  and then not kept that meeting arrangement (contacted them or even worried about breaking that arrangement) and not given any thought to how the focus on your own tasks, might impact another person’s day or schedule.

I always stress that balance in all aspects  of life is essential and whilst being strong, independent, assertive and focussed are good all these are better in moderation. Resilience gives you the ability to exercise moderation and life is indeed better.


YRQ: I often hear the word resilience used in many contexts. What is the definition of personal resilience.

Ambiguity surrounds the concept and definition of resilience because there are so many simple and complex definitions, you could be forgiven for being confused. For example, simple definitions imply that people who are resilient bounce back or rebound from adversity. Yet ask anyone who has been through trauma if this is the case and they will tell you that trauma changed them completely. They may be dealing with the adversity, but they do not just “bounce back”.

Complex definitions also exist such as “

Resilience is the process of adapting well in the face of adversity, trauma, tragedy, threats or significan sources of stress” (APA, 2016).  But what does this really mean?

Resilience is a protective mechanism that operates in the face of negative stressors. But what does this mean?


Bonnano (2012) one of about six true experts in the field of resilience offers this advice:

  1. Resilience is not a personality variable (Bonnano,2012).

Studies in resilience have attempted to infer that resilience is a measurable personality variable and several psychometric testing instruments have been designed that apparently measure resilience, yet they only measure and tell us about the factors that contribute to resilience.  Resilience is a dynamic process that is driven by the actions or reactions of a person at the point of crisis.


  1. Resilience is not the absence of pathology/or psychopathology (2012).


Bonnano (2012) made it quite clear that “defining resilience as the absence of a disorder is akin to defining health as the absence of disease”.


Obviously, it would be ridiculous to say that a healthy person is free from disease. Healthy people can have diseases, but these are managed, and this is what makes them healthy. Many websites and even practitioners define resilience in this way and note that once depression or anxiety are successfully treated resilience has returned.  To assume that resilience is the absence of psychopathology assumes that no one feels negative from the loss and grief they experience. It also assumes that at some point these negative/distressing feelings will disappear if enough therapy  (or positive thought) is thrown at the situation.


  1. Resilience is not generally good health (average adjustment) Bonnano (2012).  Holding this view means that  the  “positive predictors of adjustment are viewed as resilience factors”.


Bonnano (2012) underscores why this is an error noting that taking the average scores from resilience research tells us about the factors that contribute to resilience but tells us noting about an individual’s personal resilience. Moreover, a person could have several positive predictors of adjustment yet have  a life event, at any time, which outstrips their earlier (before the event) capacity to cope with adversity.


In general, you are right about an overuse of the word resilience in so many contexts and providing little or no reference to really what helps us be resilient. Many websites that offer tips and advice on how to be resilient yet offer little more than what one person does in their personal adverse situation.

We hope that by continued use of this site you may find what you are looking for when it comes to resilience.


YRQ:  I am constantly looking online to find resources and skills for helping myself become resilient. But I usually find that most websites have little new information to offer.

One of the problems with websites is that they take a bit by bit approach to resilience. Resilience and its development, and management are not the core business of the websites and they seek to refine the information that is already out there. Websites, often steal information from each other to provide some articles on resilience and hopefully not only draw visitors to their site but also aim to present information that is helping society. This is especially so for websites concerning information and support for our young people.  Unfortunately, with so many youth suicides I question what is on offer and would direct all youth to seek out professional help to manage coping with life events.  Whilst, the information given on these websites may be excellent and in part helpful how this information contributes to resilience and, our coping with life, is often elusive. It is for this reason that I commenced a website totally dedicated to resilience. The mission behind Resilienze For Life is to change the way you think about resilience. Provide you with real information about how all the therapy links up to and contributes to your resilience. To convert every mental health professional to a professional that   A simple model but a powerful outcome is our goal.