Another disaster!  The world is constantly coping with disasters but in the last few years, they seem to have come more frequently.  On Friday, November 8, a category 5 typhoon hit the Philippines with significant, as yet unknown, tragedies. Typhoon Haiyan becomes the latest in a long list of natural disasters.  The toll on human life and spirit can sometimes be unbearable but somehow life goes on.

Have you ever wondered why some people seem to remain calm in the face of disaster, while others seem to fall apart? People that are able to keep their cool have what psychologists call resilience, or an ability to cope with problems and setbacks. Resilient people are able to utilize their skills and strengths to cope and recover from problems and challenges, which include natural disasters, wars, terrorist attacks, job loss, financial problems, serious illness, or the death of a loved one.

On a personal note my family experienced the loss of our oldest son five years ago today. We, like other families, reacted with a flood of strong emotions and a sense of uncertainty. The next few days became a blur but we got through it because of resilience. That certainly doesn’t make us special because research has shown that resilience is ordinary, not extraordinary. People commonly demonstrate resilience as they work to rebuild their lives after a tragedy.

Being resilient doesn’t mean the people who experience a loss won’t experience difficulty or distress.  Emotional pain and sadness are common in people who have suffered major adversity or trauma. Actually the road to resilience is likely to involve considerable emotional distress.

Resiliency, or the ability to experience a loss and bounce back, has a lot to do with your overall feeling of self-worth.  It also has a lot to do with your belief system about whether your life is largely controlled by you, or by forces outside your control.  People with high-esteem and an internal sense of control over their lives just naturally bounce back more quickly than those who feel their lives are controlled by something or someone.

In his book, “The Resiliency Advantage”, the late Al Siebert wrote “Resilient people are flexible, adapt to new circumstances quickly, and thrive in constant change.  Most important, they expect to bounce back and feel confident that they will.”

While many psychologists believe that some people seem to be born with more resilience than others they assert that it’s very possible for all of us to cultivate more of it.  The key is to adjust how we think about adversity.

The good news, therefore, is that resilience can be learned.  Resilience is not really a trait that you have or don’t have.  Resilience involves behaviors, thoughts, and actions that can be learned and developed in anyone.

Think about it.