And why it’s important
Perhaps you’ve heard of emotional resilience. Or maybe just resilience, without the emotional aspect of it.
As the phrase suggests, emotional resilience can be defined as the ability to respond to stressful or unexpected situations, or, adapt well in the face of adversity, trauma, tragedy, threats, or significant sources of stress, (ie. relationship problems, serious health problems or workplace and financial stressors).
In both these definitions, there is a commonality of recovering or ‘bouncing back’ from adversities.
But what people tend to miss out on is that being emotionally resilient also means acknowledging we may have been broken by something. Some people move on too quickly, thinking that being resilient means shoving those negative feelings down, sweeping them under a rug and moving on without actually dealing with them. Life will always have different challenges and while we cannot always guarantee that we will be okay, emotional resilience is accepting that not being okay, is okay. Once we have learnt how to care for and dress the wreckage, we can then bend without breaking.
“Acknowledging that we may have been broken by something”
Before bouncing back, before carrying on and moving forward, there is a need for acceptance. While the events that have occurred or are occurring, can indeed be painful and stressful, to fully process these emotions, one must face them head-on.
By investigating our specific triggers that incite these feelings of stress or anxiety, we are able to anticipate similar situations and prepare ourselves to look for a more helpful response that can minimise an unwanted result.
Why it’s important
When a traumatic or unfavourable event occurs, it’s natural to feel out of control and powerless. To gain back that sense of control, some may act out or simply react, increasing the sensations that prompted such behaviour in the first place.
These responses are called Maladaptive behaviours. ‘Mal-’ being the prefix that means ‘bad’ or ‘ill’, and ‘adaptive’ meaning to adjust or modify, thus effectively describing the behaviour as one that adapts or modifies poorly.
In essence, maladaptive behaviours are not merely bad, they are also unhelpful or actively hinder the process of growth and change needed to navigate the world around us.
“Maladaptive behaviours are not only bad, they...actively hinder the process of growth and change…”
Imagine ghosting a friend because of an embarrassing moment, or never learning to walk because you fell down as a child! Or never learning to swim because you almost drowned before.
Without learning there is no growth. There is no opportunity to explore the world in spite of the fears and anxiety. The sense of purpose or hopes for the future is instead overridden by a caged sense of safety that could manifest as laziness, disrespect or lack of consideration etc.
Counter-intuitively, acknowledging the event and circumstance of the aftermath allows one to regain back control over the situation as they are now able to do something to improve outcome, despite the unfavorables encountered.
As we venture through life, unpleasant events and difficult situations may arise, inciting fear, anxiety or even anger. Emotional resilience means that we can use these events as opportunities for personal growth and evolve through them.
Like any other defense mechanism or behaviour, it takes time to develop new and better responses to these triggers. Interpersonal relationships can thrive or suffer depending on how triggers are managed. Your personal outlook on life can also be affected by how you respond to adversities and tough situations.
If you’re reading this, chances are, you may have had a fair share of poor responses being thrown at you by loved ones or even exhibiting it yourself. Building up emotional resilience takes patience, persistence, and an acute awareness of one’s self. It involves a renewed perspective of yourself, and after that, a constant renewal as you continue to grow and pave your own way through this world.
The Children's Society (n.d.) Mental health and well-being A-Z: Emotional Resilience. Retrieved Nov 20, 2021, from:
About the Author - Grace Yap
Grace is a creative writer who is passionate about shedding light on mental wellness. She believes that this topic has been undermined and underexposed for far too long. The stereotypical view of people with mental health issues continues to trap many within an unseen abyss. The fear of coming out of the husk to reach out to others for help is real yet unfortunate. Through her writing, she hopes to help more gain a better understanding of mental wellness and learn ways to cope and live better.
When she's not busy weaving words, she enjoys gaming to keep inspired by the many fictitious worlds and characters because, to quote Einstein, "Imagination embraces the entire world, and all there ever will be to know and understand."