When asked about what we do when working with youth, the topic typically comes around to the subject of “building resiliency”. The word “resilience”, for whatever reason, is triggering for some and understood in different ways. Some believe the concept of being resilient means the ability to “bounce back” from a struggle or hard times, and continue moving forward. Others look at resiliency as a sort of “walling off” of the world, a way to stay immune to stress by creating a wall to protect ourselves. Finally, I have spoken to parents who look at resiliency as a focus on hard times rather than a striving for the good ones.
The answer to the question “why resiliency?” really depends on what the definition of the word “resilience” is. Taking a quick look at Merriam-Webster:
: the ability to become strong, healthy, or successful again after something bad happens
: the ability of something to return to its original shape after it has been pulled, stretched, pressed, bent, etc.
In both examples, the commonality can be seen around the “ability to return” or “become again”. The purpose of building resilience, as used by our organization and for the purpose of working with youth, is to aid young people in the understanding and integration of educational experience so that it can allow for greater personal awareness. We believe a foundation of personal awareness is what gives an individual a strong and steady place to “return” to so they can “become themselves again”.
Life is full of stress, especially as a developing youth, so having the ability to return to oneself in a calm and steady manner is one of the greatest tools we can provide. The tool of “resiliency” is what we call an “actualizer”: it creates the context for other tools to be understood and used. Examples of tools enabled by resiliency include communication with integrity, wise utilization of personal strengths, humble identification or personal needs, cultivating the ability to communicate complex emotions, among many others. Examples of techniques to create resiliency include group exercises around mindfulness, collaborative projects that tell the story of each individual member, and reflective essays around personal place and meaning.
Why resiliency? Because life can be hard, and we need to have the tools to become ourselves again.