The following excerpts come from Beyond Trauma by Dean Bonura.
The Meaning of Resilience
Resilience is a learned behavior involving both thoughts and actions, and includes a process of rapid adaptation in the face of dire circumstances, trauma, general adversity, and other sources of stress.5 Adaptation is evident when the person sufficiently recovers and returns to her or his original level of functioning.
Resilience is about the ability of an object to regain its shape after being bent, stretched, or compressed. Take, for example, the properties of an aluminum soda can. It’s not very resilient—apply a little pressure and you’ve dented the can. But a Styrofoam coffee cup has some give to it. Squeeze the cup a little and maybe you’ll spill some coffee. But relax the pressure and the cup regains its original shape. Similarly, resilience is evident in people who are flexible, capable of adjusting to their environment and returning to normal functioning.
Jessica and Elizabeth are just two examples of people who bounced back from adversity. They possessed certain qualities that enabled them to face adversity and win, qualities like flexibility, determination, and optimism. Their resilience reestablished normal functioning for them. They not only recovered, they advanced themselves beyond where they were before.6
Again we are reminded of what the apostle Paul had in mind when he instructed, “More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance and endurance produces character, and character produces hope” (Rom. 5:3–4). The presence of resilience contributes to personal development and leads to a change in perspective.
Values and Skills
In addition to the Soldier’s Creed and Warrior Ethos, the inculcation of professional values, such as loyalty, duty, and respect, and interpersonal skills through resiliency programs contributes to the warrior’s resilience. The development of resilience that supports the soldier before, during, and after the battle is encompassed in the army’s Comprehensive Soldier Fitness program. The program focuses on five pillars of fitness: family, social, physical, emotional, and spiritual. Master resiliency trainers are formally trained in resilience and assigned to units to assist in the development of these pillars of fitness, supported by other agencies including the chaplaincy, Army Community Service, and Army Substance Abuse Program.
Discipline also contributes to a warrior’s resilience. It is discipline that keeps an army from becoming a mob that rape and pillages or kills indiscriminately. Discipline, accompanied by values and moral leadership training, builds a force for good. During my tour in Iraq, despite our ongoing security mission, we were engaged in many humanitarian projects, from distributing soccer balls and school supplies to construction projects. On any given day, a soldier might distribute sports equipment at a local school and later respond to an IED attack. Every servicemember had to maintain a high level of situational awareness, regardless of what he or she was doing.
How does a servicemember operate this way? How does a warrior switch gears between humanitarian efforts and security operations, in which he might have to use his weapon? Discipline. It is a credit to all servicemembers that they are able to transition without loss of discipline. Units that are disciplined do this effectively. It is that learned discipline that keeps a servicemembers from using skills inappropriately later.
The military is a profession of arms and a societal institution that is guided by an ethical code. Professionalism builds confidence and contributes to resilience. As professionals, military members are formally steeped in values, traditions, and practices that contribute to the military’s institutional authority and place in society. The military’s role is defined not only by the Constitution, government, and military leaders, but also by society itself. The American people sanction the role of the American military, and through congressional representation sends service members to war.
Spirituality and Resilience
Research supports the contribution of religion or spirituality to the development of resilience. The veteran is benefitted by an active faith life.20 Some studies show that people who are spiritually engaged are healthier, more content, and better adjusted than those who are not so engaged.21 In the sections below, we’ll consider some of the ways spirituality or religion contribute to resilience.
The Role of Faith
Having an active faith provides a person with the strong belief that she or he is part of a bigger story, a larger plan, and a greater purpose. Faith acknowledges God’s control over circumstances. The experiences of trauma and pain are not the end of the story. Faith gives the traumatized person a framework for making meaning and finding purpose. Faith in a resilient person also provides a source of hopefulness about the future. Sometimes, like Job, when we’re left with nothing, it is our faith in God that gets us through.
These excerpts pulled from Beyond Trauma by Dean Bonura.
5. M. Eberly, “Resiliency: Bouncing Back From Adversity.”
6. Ibid. See also Leslie Morland, Lisa Butler, and Gregory Leskin, “Resilience and Thriving in a Time of Terrorism,” in Trauma, Recovery, and Growth, 39-61; “Resilience,” The American Heritage Dictionary; K. Reivich and A. Shatté, The Resilience Factor (New York: Broadway Books, 2002).
20. Plante, “What do the Spiritual.”
21. Ibid. See also Schiraldi, The Post-Traumatic.