Let’s not Confuse Survival with Resilience

Resilience

Resilience

Sometimes I think we confuse “resilient” and “survival” at times.

The use of “resilient” may be especially applied when speaking about children (and others) in difficult situations.

I have often heard stated, “Well, you know, children are resilient.”

I have also heard “resilience” applied to abuse survivors, individuals who survive natural disasters, and so on.

I am not taking anything away from these individuals, or the positive sentiments implied by the use of the word “resilient”.

However, one definitions I found for “resilience” captured my concern about usage of this word.

It defined resilience as the “capability of a strained body to recover its size and shape after deformation…”

See, this is what I think we miss when we use the word “resilience”. To be truly resilient, based on the above definition, the body (or Being) RECOVERS its size and shape.

I have not found this to be true in those I witness suffering abuse or other traumas.

Certainly, individuals are capable of moving through these experiences.

However, the original state of the person is NOT RECOVERED, thus based on the definition I provided above, “resilience” can not be applied to describe these individuals.

The body (or Being) of the person does not return to its size and shape- it has been forever modified by the experience.

So, when I hear people speak about children suffering or others who are supposedly “resilient”, I often transpose their sentiments in my mind and use the word “surviving” in place of “resilient”.

The term “surviving’ conjures up an entire different emotional sense and awareness.

We can no longer absolve ourselves of our collective responsibility for those suffering, by saying “Well, they are resilient” (meaning: We needn’t worry too much. Those who we label as “resilient” will return to their original size and shape, as good as new, once this is all over.)

We should be saying instead, “Well, they are surviving”.

And with the word “surviving” we begin to capture the struggles, and perhaps, more importantly, give up the ideas that all will be “fine”, because “resilient” objects, no matter what they suffer, are expected to return to their original size and shape.

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8 thoughts on “Let’s not Confuse Survival with Resilience

  1. Were we resilient rather than survivors we would not develop maladaptive behavioural traits that helped us to survive.

    “We can no longer absolve ourselves of our collective responsibility for those suffering, by saying “Well, they are resilient” (meaning: We needn’t worry too much. Those who we label as “resilient” will return to their original size and shape, as good as new, once this is all over.)”

    But we-as-they can and do just that, irrespective of the fact that they SHOULD not. It comes down to it not being a matter of personal interest because it tends to be only that which moves people, something that is neither right nor wrong but simply is. Were we to genuinely behold every other as a citizen and therefore part of an extended family this would not be the case, we would all be so connected as to make the matter personal. But we aren’t looked at that way and this has been the case since time immemorial and, I think, because we have no love of learning to recognise the other in the self and the self in the other.

    • Great final sentence about the lover of learning the ability to recognize self in others. I have worried about this, as the self becomes the one and only reference point. Thank you for this reminder.
      p.s. I sent you an e-mail in response to your last e-mail from my other account. hope you received. thanks!

  2. The definition of resilience you found is that in reference to inanimate objects… ie; the ability for material to absorb energy and then revert to its original state when the energy is released.

    Psychological resilience is something completely different.. where a person’s ability to adapt to stress and adversity may have the affect of coming back even stronger than they were before said event if they are able to overcome it.

    As for as survival is concerned, the level of one’s resilience goes a long way in helping one to survive, but does not guarantee survival in of of itself. It may be just one factor among many that aid in said survival. So yes, I most definitely agree that resilience should not be confused with survival.

    • Great point. I realize the definition applied in a “physics-esque” type of way:) However, I felt it fit with how easily the term “resilient” is sometimes bantered out. I think we need to be cautious in assuming all can repair themselves easily.

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