April 16, 2021 • By Jocelyn Markowicz, PhD, Psychologist
Tyler Perry, the infamous producer and actor, within the full breadth of his creative fortitude, delivered the best simplification of the concept of resilience. In his guest talk at a church in Texas, he provided a powerfully simple way to inspire resilience. In his speech, he told the audience to “Climb and Maintain.” His message aimed to inspire people not to give up on their dreams even in the face of problems and hardship. In short, Perry spoke about resilience.
Resilience is a concept developed in the field of psychology. Resilience focuses on climbing and maintaining in pursuit of your goal. The climb is the action(s) you take toward your goal, while the maintenance is your ability to resist the risks in the physical and social environment, overcoming stress and adversity to maintain relatively good psychological and physical health (Garmezy, 1983; Werner & Smith, 1982) and achieve your dreams.
Are we all innately resilient? Can we develop resiliency if we do not possess it? If we “climb and maintain” as Tyler Perry inspires us to do, will it lead to success? Psychological research has provided the answers regarding who can climb and maintain and what outcomes may arise from persisting through life stressors. Let’s take a look.
IS RESILIENCY AN INNATE TRAIT? NO.
When children are born, their parents often hope that they will be able to teach them everything they need to overcome obstacles, persist despite challenges, and achieve their dreams. However, despite this hope, parents may discover that their children give up easily, do not believe in themselves, and fall short of fighting through adversity. Are some children naturally more able to cope with stress and persist through adversity toward achieving their dreams? Are some children ill-equipped by nature to handle life’s challenges? Psychologists determined that resilience is less of an innate trait than it is a trait that is developed over time (Trivedi et al., 2011). Essentially, resilience can be learned. This means that parents can help their easily conquered or sluggishly motivated child persist through the stress toward achieving their dreams.
If resilience is learned, how do we help someone develop resiliency?
HOW CAN WE DEVELOP RESILIENCY?
Resiliency involves coping mechanisms and support systems necessary to promote well-being (Luthar & Brown, 2007). Therapy is an excellent resource for resiliency development. In therapy, individuals, couples, and families learn about effective coping mechanisms. They are encouraged to utilize them to progress through stressful life situations. Therapy also becomes part of a support system that strengthens the development of resiliency muscles to motivate you to persist. We are biologically designed to connect with others. Healthy family, peer, and career support systems also enable us to strengthen our internal systems so that we can effectively cope and persist toward our goals. Starting therapy is part of the climb, and continuing treatment is part of the maintenance toward your life goals.
HOW DO WE CLIMB AND MAINTAIN?
Increasing an individual’s resilience can help improve mental health (Koelmel, Hughes, Alschuler, & Ehde, 2017). The American Psychological Association (APA, 2020) offered greater detail regarding how to “climb and maintain” towards your life goals. They suggested several ways that describe the climbing process that Tyler Perry illuminated.
In order to act towards your goals, according to APA, you have to
- Be proactive.
- Take steps to move toward your goals.
- Look for opportunities of self-discovery to inform the next steps you take.
APA offered ways to maintain your climb as well:
- Embracing healthy thoughts
- Accepting change
In essence, in order to maintain your climb, you have to accept the inevitability of change that will require you to revise your perspective and elevate your thinking.
Optimal mental health is important to successfully overcome life stressors. The higher you climb towards your dreams, the larger those stressors can become. To maintain your climb towards your dreams, you must take care of your mental health. Therapy can help you cope with stressors and offer needed support in the face of adversity.
HOW CAN THERAPY MOTIVATE PEOPLE TO WANT TO DEVELOP RESILIENCY?
Often, the most challenging part of motivating someone is determining how. What is the best way to challenge and encourage this specific person?
The act of climbing sounds simple enough. You move one foot out in front of you. You then take the other foot and move it up to join or pass its partner. Wait, that described walking. How is climbing different from walking? Climbing adds pressure on the joints due to elevation. To climb, you must indeed start with one foot, not just placed in front, but higher than your walking step. Then you must take the other foot and also put it higher than your walking step. A movement toward your goals requires moving with added weight and strain.
We sometimes need motivation to move through pressure. Therapists use a technique called Motivational Interviewing (MI) to help individuals take the steps toward resiliency development. Motivational Interviewing is a method of eliciting an individual’s motivation for change, then guiding them to act on that motivation. Motivational Interviewing is perfect for individuals needing help to get motivated enough to start their climb as well as for those who need support and encouragement to maintain. Motivational Interviewing has been wonderfully successful at improving motivation and action at a rate of 80-95% (Rubak, Sandaek, Lauritzen, & Christensen, 2005). Thank you, Tyler Perry, for talking psychology so that others can seek help on the journey toward their dreams!
American Psychological Association. (2020, February 1). Building your resilience. http://www.apa.org/topics/resilience
Garmezy, N. (1983). Stressors of childhood. In N. Garmezy & M. Rutter (Eds.),Stress, coping, and development in children(pp. 43– 84). New York, NY: McGraw-Hill.
Koelmel, E., Hughes, A. J., Alschuler, K. N., & Ehde, D. M. (2017). Resilience mediates the longitudinal relationships between social support and mental health outcomes in multiple sclerosis. Archives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, 98, 1139 –1148.
Luthar, S. S., & Brown, P. J. (2007). Maximizing resilience through diverse levels of inquiry: Prevailing paradigms, possibilities, and priorities for the future. Development and Psychopathology, 19, 931-955.
Rutter, M. (1987). Psychosocial resilience and protective mechanisms. American Journal of Ortho-psychiatry, 57, 316 –331.
Trivedi, R. B., Bosworth, H., Resnicow, K. & McMaster, F. ( 2012). Motivational Interviewing: moving from why to how with autonomy support. International Journal of Physical Activity, 9-19.
Rubak, S., Sandaek, A., Lauritzen, T., & Christensen, B. (2005). Motivational interviewing: a systematic review and meta-analysis. British Journal of General Practice, 55(513): 305–312.
Trivedi, Ranak & Bosworth, Hayden & Jackson, George. (2011). Resilience in Aging. 10.1007/978-1-4419-0232-0_12.
Werner, E. E., & Smith, R. S. (1982).Vulnerable but invincible: A longitudinal study of resilient children and youth. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill.
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