Resilience that causes harm

Resilience can be useful and even help us in the face of adversities, it means being able to adapt to reasonable levels of stress and make reasonable changes it does not mean, adapting and tolerating toxic behaviour or environments or events, so whilst helpful in this way, to simply claim that all we need to do is to be more resilient or expected too in order to recover or overcome obstacles can be damaging and here’s why.

It’s not always a matter of strength, we need the right conditions in order to thrive and survive.

Poor people who are strong but have no food means they will likely die of starvation no matter their will to live. Having no medical resources means you will be unable to heal no matter your body or mental strength.

Trauma that has gone untreated for too many years, leads to brain changes and affects other systems in the body, leading to diseases that can be fatal. A lack of connection can kill the soul and those who have experienced relational trauma or attachment wounds will find safety in the very loneliness that kills them.

Can we stop thinking we can control everything? Can we please not glamorous resilience by telling people to be resilient without making those who hurt and victimise others accountable?

Can we stop suggesting those who don’t make it are cowards and weak instead of looking at who hurt them so badly to make them feel they had no other escape route?

Can we stop with the toxic positivity and just hold people in their pain and recognise the reality of pain and human experience.

Can we stop shaming? Can we stop forcing healing rather than stand with those in pain? Can we just allow people not to be okay?

We don’t know the future, we can’t promise anyone how their life will plan out, it’s not guaranteed. It is a cruel world that can be hard to navigate. So, let’s just sit with them in their pain.

Just because someone survived something once doesn’t mean they can again. In fact, sometimes this can make the wounds greater. If a bullet has missed you once or not killed you doesn’t mean another bullet will not and this is the same with psychological injuries and attacks to us.

What doesn’t kill you doesn’t necessarily make you stronger, it makes you vulnerable, it makes you feel unsafe, it can be deliberating.

Stop pressurising people, this just shames those who keep finding it hard to heal through no fault of their own. Life throws things that are not always surmountable. It can fatally wound us. We are mortals, nothing to do with power or strength. To claim we just have to be resilient to all adversity can actually kill us not save us. Even adaptive methods can become maladaptive when taken to the extreme.

There is nothing wrong in learning tools that help us deal with challenging or difficult emotions and to self regulate and self soothe, but to suggest that one needs to be resilient to everything, leading one to have too much resilience is expecting someone to be tolerant of adversities and things they should never have to tolerate or not rightly be affected by and this in my opinion is dangerous and invalidating. Victims and survivors have been invalidated enough.

Those that suffer from the effects of mental health, PTSD, oppression, violence, abuse, war…are strong and have been strong for too long. A bone is strong and yet if you bash a bone hard and consistently enough, it will break. We all have our limits, we are not objects or robots. We need to create an environment that doesn’t judge, that meets human needs, that functions on compassion and empathy, that has the right help, support and tools easily accessible for everyone and hold those who hurt others accountable.

When we believe others just need resilience to get them though, we don’t check on those we see as ‘strong’ as if someone can’t be strong and hurting at the same time.

We keep saying that children are resilient, again an excuse to dismiss the pain and consequences of things, if children were so resilient, having to face things that they are unable to handle, how come so many grow into adults who need therapy? who are emotionally or mentally struggling? We are not objects or robots, we are sentimental beings and the world needs to remember this instead of hurting people further with unrealistic expectations.

Resilience is being able to be allowed to sit with our pain, accept it, have support, have the necessary conditions to thieve, this is what gives us the ability to be resilient.

You can be resilient and still hurt, still feel like you want to die, still find things overwhelming and difficult and need support and help. You can be resilient and still not make it, this doesn’t make you weak or a failure, this world with it’s dysfunctional myths and messages and unrealistic expectations, oppression… failed you. You are strong no matter what, you can be strong and vulnerable, strong and hurt, strong and be weakened. To many believe that they have to be resilient which means they must do it alone, ‘toughen up’, be able to ‘deal with it’. No, you shouldn’t, you should be able to be seen, heard, validated and supported.

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