For Frederic Flach, MD, resilience is “the psychological and biological strengths required to successfully master change”1, the recurring cycle of disruption and reintegration. In his book Resilience: Discovering a New Strength at Times of Stress, Frederic Flach writes about the importance of resilience, what it is, and how to build it. He also shares the profile of The Resilient Personality.
Stress is nothing new. What’s new, and even more so since Frederic Flach wrote his book, is the exponential rate of change experienced, exacerbated by the disintegration of traditional structures that provided support in the past. On the plus side, our traditional viewpoint of what is proper behaviour is also not change-proof, opening up and allowing for a greater spectrum of emotions, reactions, and behaviours that are deemed more acceptable.
From years of clinical work, from friends and from his own investigation of the creative process, Frederic Flach put together what he called The Resilient Personality.
The resilient attributes he shared are:2
* Open-mindedness to new ideas
* Having a wide variety of interests
* Having a robust sense of self-esteem
* Independent and flexible, open to advice and help
* Strong network for support
* Able to give and take in relationships
* Seeing and building strengths, gifts, and talents
* Sense of humour
* Aware of feelings of others and self and can communicate appropriately
* Strong sense of responsibility, discipline, and tolerance for distress
* Having focus, being committed to life, and having a philosophical framework
These resilient attributes are dynamic and fluctuate over time and in different circumstances and challenges. The more resilient a person is, the more quickly they can distill the lessons and reassemble for a personal renewal and for a higher adaptation, better prepared for future challenges. The key to a resilient personality is flexibility. To Frederic Flach, falling apart
Nervous breakdowns, rather than reflecting illness as such, may be manifestations of the normal disruption that accompanies these transition periods or, as is often the case, an intensified form of such disrutpion, one that may at times assume catastrophic proportions because earlier transitions in the life cycle were not successfully accomplished.
Frederic Flach, MD3
The illness is not in the falling apart. Falling apart just may be what is needed. The illness lies in the failure to learn from the experience, reorganize, and reintegrate after stressful events. When this happens, the illness is becoming “trapped in a persistent, chronic state of dysfunction.”4
Many features of the resilient personality can be found in early childhood and shaped by later experience. We are open systems, subject to the forces of the external environment. Stressful events and challenges are unique opportunities to assess what is in our wheelhouse and what can be.
1 Frederic Flach. Resilience: Discovering a new Strength at Times of Stress. p xviii
2 Ibid. p 113
3 Ibid. p 41
4 Ibid. p xiv