Venkat Pulla, Andrew Shatte & Shane Warren, pp. 506, Rs. A$ 29.95, Authors Press
Humanity's need for resilience has rarely been greater. We live in a troubled world, in troubled times. As we write, there are 35 major military conflicts and wars raging on this planet. Thirteen per cent of the world's population is unable to find enough food. And global warming is threatening our very survival as a species.
The global recession has tested our mettle-tested our resilience-for the last five years. In the United States, each and every day since 2008, 8,000 people lost their jobs and 2,500 families lost their homes. This is not a uniquely American phenomenon. The economic contagion has spread throughout much of the globe. In the Eurozone, unemployment now stands at a record high of 11.1 per cent. In the first year of the recession alone, China saw 670,000 of its businesses close their doors.
But as tough as these times are, and as immediate as our need for resilience is, the reality is that resilience is an evergreen ability, ever in demand, almost as much a basic human need as air to breathe and water to drink.
Consider the fishermen in India's Bay of Bengal. Every year, year after year, the monsoons batter and swamp their meager boats. But day after day, holding tightly to their dinghies, they return to the sea, fighting the wet and the tides, forever hopeful for that big catch. Consider the people of the Oddar Meanchey province on the Cambodian-Thai border, who live their entire lives tending their disputed lands, under a pall of conflict and uncertainty-and who manage, through their resilience, to settle into some kind of normalcy. Drive through some of these dusty villages where farmers continue to cultivate their fields amidst chaos, and one is struck by the improbable serenity. Or, if you will indulge us, consider the lives of the average citizen of our industrialized nations. They have food and, by and large, they have peace. What they lack is peace of mind. Day in and day out they are told to do more with less at work, face impossible deadlines, are torn between work and home, watch their retirement plans go up in smoke in the great recession, juggle kids and deal with aging parents-all under the threat of downsizing.
And so we see that the need for resilience is a basic human need. And as a truly global phenomenon, it demands a global voice. And that is why we have gathered together a cadre of people from around the world to share with us, and with you the reader, their important work on resilience. Perspectives on Coping and Resilience examines the interplay of individual, family, community and social factors, and deepens our understanding of the human ability to 'bounce back'-a vital competency for success. This unique collection of trans-disciplinary writings on human coping and resilience is the collaboration of distinguished practitioners and academics in the diverse fields of psychology, management science, art, social work and spirituality.
Coping and Resilience have become core issues in a multiplicity of social science disciplines, as they have in our societies today. Taking a social work perspective the very first chapter on contours of coping and resilience by Venkat Pulla explains the core elements in coping and resilience, and suggests a strengths approach, promoting resilience from the remedial to the empowering. The intention of this chapter, and this book, is to facilitate change by examining what has worked, what has not worked and what might work in boosting resilience in our clients.
If we are going to take a deeper dive into resilience, we must first examine what the concept of resilience is. Thomas Dukes, the Director of School Counselling at Rhode Island University in the United States takes us on a philosophical examination of resilience and its meaning.
We learn that Emotion Regulation-the ability to control negative feelings in the wake of an adversity-is a critical component of Resilience. Shane Warren, a Director of the International Resilience Institute of Sydney, opens us up to what emotion regulation is. Jennifer Hudson and Venkat Pulla, from Social Work at Charles Sturt University in Australia, expand on the topic and show us how emotion regulation develops from birth through the first six years of life, pointing to possible prescriptions for our children along the way.
We learn of the importance of Self-efficacy in Resilience-the belief that one has control or even mastery in one's world. Anndrea Wheatley shares with us her important work in the schools of Sydney, Australia, as she co-opts the old narrative of 'the little engine who could' to assess the current state of self-efficacy in the students she serves and to help them boost their sense of mastery and control for greater resilience.
Several of our marvelous contributors demonstrate the power of resilience in the lives of individuals and the importance of personal resilience to better deal with adversity. Sharalyn Drayton, in her Sydney practice, writes of the use of resilience to change self-defeating behaviors in the cycle of addiction and co-dependence. In a truly multinational collaboration (Canada-Australia-New Zealand-Malaysia), Nur Aishah Hanun, Lynne Briggs and Wayne Hammond present case studies illustrating exactly how and when to deploy a resilience intervention with youth with disabilities. Anne Riggs, a practitioner in Victoria, Australia, relates her creative use of art therapy to help the female victims of childhood sexual abuse move from victimhood to recovery. Linda Douglas of the New Hampshire Coalition Against Domestic Violence offers riveting anecdotes that demonstrate the key role of resilience in predicting who recovers from domestic violence and how this knowledge should guide the services we provide to victims of abuse and Sindisio Zhou and Nhlanhla Landa proffer a moving chapter on how the 18 per cent of Zimbabwean women afflicted with HIV-AIDS are able to cope.
Some of our authors reflect the advances made by the positive psychology movement in their work. In their powerful and important work, practitioners Pamela Trotman and Leisha Townson from the Northern Territory, Australia, introduce us to the concept of the Survivor Self. They outline how we in the healing professions have come to medicalize and clinicalize the normal, human response to trauma with our very language. Instead of remediating victims, they help their clients-like the woman who was held hostage and threatened for hours with death by machete-identify the very moment in time when they became a survivor rather than a victim, and use that kernel to help resilience bloom and flourish. Richard Hill posits that humans may experience as much growth as trauma after a traumatic experience. Jeanne Broderick challenges us to tap into our emotional guidance systems for the positive as much as we do the negative. And Jo Kelly writes of how we can inject resilience into the normal, positive, social and emotional development of our adolescent children.
Of course, individuals are part of wider networks-work organizations, communities, societies, and nations-and several of our contributors have shared their work on resilience at this broader level. Robin Hills and Doug Haynes of the United Kingdom have developed an innovative method of opening up conversations with employees about their attitude to organizational change and adversity. Using 16 cards depicting adversity and resilience scenarios, they explore the resilience metaphors we bring to the table and begin to build stronger individuals in more resilient organizations as a result. Similarly, Linda Hoopes, a corporate consultant from the United States, explores how to create individual resilience in an organizational setting. Alyce White and Venkat Pulla encourage us to consider resilience as more than just a list of personal strengths. They outline a theory of how family, school, community, and even national and cultural mores shape the resilience of the person-reminding us of the old African proverb that it takes a village to raise a child. Linda Hoopes and her colleague, Lynne Varagona have developed a system to provide a snapshot into the resilience of a community and Lynne Varagona details her remarkable discovery that, in the developing nations, the resilience of the country's leaders, people, and social context are able to predict changes in GDP above and beyond the metrics of the World Bank.
In our final chapter, Andrew Shatte of the College of Medicine at The University of Arizona in the United States and a Fellow with the Brookings Institution outlines the 20-year history of his and his colleagues pursuit of the concept of resilience and how to boost it in children, adolescents and adults. Consider this chapter, and this book, as a celebration of all of our contributors and countless others around the world who have dedicated their careers to understanding people, their adversities big and small, the human capacity for resilience, and how we can help people heal, survive, and thrive.
This book is dedicated to them all.
Venkat Pulla, Andrew Shatte, Shane Warren
23 November, 2012