How do you become resilient?

Is resilience innate, or is it developed by overcoming the trials of life? Locked in between our four walls, confined because of a pandemic, are we becoming super-resilient beings? We asked two specialists the question.


Posted on April 26, 2020 at 12:00 p.m.

Nathalie CollardNathalie Collard
The Press

We hear it and read it often, a resilient person goes through hardships better. But how do you become one? Can you learn that, doctor?

“This is something you can acquire and develop,” says Dre Tina Montreuil, assistant professor in the department of educational psychology and counseling at McGill University. “Currently, COVID-19 gives us the opportunity to develop our resilience. But you still have to have some predispositions. “

“Resilience is not a concept fixed in time,” continues Dre Montreuil, who heads the Research Group on Anxiety and Emotional Regulation in Children. There is a context, an environment. A person can be resilient in the face of an ordeal, the pandemic, for example, but not be resilient in the face of a breakup. It all depends on our luggage. As for the severity of the test, it is not objective. It’s different for each person. “

In other words, what seems like an ordeal for someone may be trivial for others.

“We are all working on our resilience factors,” said psychologist Pascale Brillon, director of the Alpha Institute. This anxiety treatment specialist likes to use the metaphor of the reed that bends without breaking to describe what resilience is. “It’s our ability to bounce back, absorb adversity and get back to where we were before,” she said.

We sometimes tend to confuse resilience with strength of character. But it’s not exactly the same thing, says the psychologist.

“People who say” I went through this ordeal without feeling anything, I showed courage “, it is not resilience, she nuances. To be resilient is to be able to show emotional and cognitive flexibility, it is to be able to recognize our emotions, our physical sensations. And our tolerance for uncertainty has a lot to do with it. “

Can I be fine now, despite what is happening, despite the anxiety I feel? If so, I am showing resilience.

Pascale Brillon, director of the Alpha Institute

Even humor is a form of resilience, insists Dre Brillon. “Since the start of the pandemic, we have seen caricatures and memes. Our ability to laugh, self-deprecation and dark humor are all forms of resilience. “

Teaching resilience

Psychologically, we are not all equal in the face of the pandemic. You just have to walk around on social networks to see that some people experience the stress of confinement more difficult. “For people who are vulnerable, it is more difficult,” confirms Dre Brillon. It brings things up, they react more strongly. But I would say that most of the people are resilient. “

“It is not true that we are all going to have problems when we come out of confinement,” estimates Dre Montreuil. Most of us will get through this without too much trouble. “

Are there more resilient personality types than others?

“I wouldn’t say it like that,” replies this specialist. There are psychological predispositions. And the immediate environment will help us see things more positively. “

Several studies show that there is a direct link between the parents’ reaction to an ordeal and the emotional regulation of children, until adulthood.

“It is for this reason that we try to infuse certain behaviors in more fragile parents,” emphasizes Dre Montreuil, which is developing prevention programs in collaboration with Sainte-Justine Hospital. We support parents even before the birth of the child so that they build their resilience and that there is a positive transfer between the generations. And if the parent is not able, a significant person in the child’s life can play this role. Hence the importance of teachers for children growing up in more difficult environments. “

See the good side

We can equip parents, therefore, but above all we can also “teach” resilience to children. How? ‘Or’ What ? “With the child, we try to make him aware of what is going on inside him,” explains Dr.re Montreuil. Why do I feel sad, what’s going on in my head, in my body? Then they help them accept the situation and show self-compassion. “

Certain behaviors adopted by the family – good physical health, good nutrition, a healthy lifestyle – are all factors that can promote a child’s resilience and help him rebound.

The Dre Tina Montreuil, Assistant Professor in the Department of Educational Psychology and Counseling at McGill University

But not all children grow up in safe environments, or just haven’t developed the tools to be resilient. In this case, is it too late, in adulthood, to become one?

“In the social sciences, we dare to believe that it is never too late,” answers psychologist Pascale Brillon, a smile in her voice. We can also talk about post-traumatic growth: can I learn from an ordeal? In the case of the pandemic, can I even get better than before because the ordeal allowed me to review my values, my choices, my life goals? “

In the end, will our experience of containment help us to grow? Is it possible to see positive aspects without falling into jovialism? “There are beautiful things that can come out of all this, believes in fact the Dre Montreuil. We can say: I will try to see the best of the situation. You can come out a winner for having faced adversity. It’s not positive psychology to say that. “

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