Resilience and the Phoenix Phenomenon
The world breaks everyone, and afterward, some grow strong at the
—Ernest Hemingway (1929)
When we meet and work with people who have been through traumatic situations, we can not automatically assume that they have been irrevocably injured emotionally and psychologically. Trauma, like any other aspect of human existence, is not a “one size fits all” experience. Some will respond to traumatic situations with severe psychological damage, but others will manifest a sense of resilience or hardiness, and it is our job to watch for these strengths and to help the client to build upon them.
We need to understand, however, how these strengths develop and how they can be manifest. Anthony and Cohler (1987) remind us that “The emphasis on deficit and maldevelopment in psyche has largely remained, following the example of medicine's emphasis in disease. But recently, there has been a movement in psychology to conceptualize human nature in terms of strengths and abilities not as weaknesses and deficiencies” (Anthony & Cohler, 1987).