Dear Neil: Is there a way to measure how resilient a person is? My girlfriend walked out on me the same week I was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. I’m handling things okay, but it got me to wondering if being resilient is something I could cultivate or develop. Any ideas?
Holding On In San Francisco
Dear Holding On: Resilience is the capacity to face, overcome, be strengthened by and even be transformed by experiences of adversity. All humans have the capacity to become resilient. Here is the measure of resilience you requested:
Think about how much each of the following statements describes you. Then write down a number from 1-10, with 10 representing “Describes me the most.”
- One or more persons within my family I can trust and who love me without reservation.
- One or more persons outside my family I can trust without reservation.
- Limits to my behavior.
- People who encourage me to be independent.
- Good role models.
- Access to health, education and the social and security services I need.
- A stable family and community.
- A person most people like.
- Generally calm and good-natured.
- An achiever who plans for the future.
- A person who respects myself and others.
- Empathetic and caring of others.
- Responsible for my own behavior and accepting of the consequences.
- A confident, optimistic, hopeful person.
- Generate new ideas or new ways to do things.
- Stay with the task until it is finished.
- See the humor in life and use it to reduce tensions.
- Express my thoughts and feelings in communications with others.
- Solve problems in various settings—academic, job-related, personal and social.
- Manage my behavior—my feelings and impulses.
- Reach out for help when I need it.
Add all the numbers together. That number is your resilience quotient.
No one is born with skills or inner strength. Thus, every resilient person learned how to increasingly draw on their inner strength, as well as their social and problem-solving skills. If you wish to cultivate these strengths and skills, look for ways you can improve your score on the various items listed above. In addition, you could explore the following questions:
What are the obstacles that need to be overcome to deal with the adversity? Do I need to consider reaching out for help? Who can provide help? What inner strengths do I need to draw on? What skills do I need to use? Is any part of the adversity over? Is something new emerging? What actions need to be taken? Can anything be done to help break the tension I am under? Am I showing respect for myself and others? Can I share my feelings as this experience continues so that I don’t bottle them up too much?
After the adversity has subsided, it would be useful for you to ponder what you learned about yourself. Are you stronger, more confident or a better person in some way? Do you have new insights about yourself, your emotions, your relationships?
Source: Tapping Your Inner Strength by Edith Henderson Grotberg