Why do some people cope better with exceptional situations than others? "Resilience is the answer," says clinical psychologist J. Christopher Kübler and reveals how he helps his clients train their psychological resilience.

We all know them: People who have "nerves of steel", are "a rock in the storm" or prove to be "stand-up guys" time and again. Phrases like these describe a remarkable quality that experts call resilience. They mean an experience and behaviour that not only allows us to defy massive stresses - in keeping with the Latin meaning of "resilire = to bounce back" - but with which we can master our challenges and even grow from them in the process. 

Those who think they are born with little psychological resilience will be pleased to learn that experience in counselling, coaching and psychotherapy has shown time and again that most people have resilience skills that are simply not activated. This means that there is more to us than we let ourselves dream.

General resilience factors

Thanks to extensive research, scientists can now name a whole range of central resilience factors. These include, for example, intellectual abilities, social competence, problem-solving skills, good self-efficacy and self-control, and successful stress management. Resilient people also prove to be solution-oriented, able to relate, open, interested, self-motivated, determined, goal-oriented, sense-oriented, positive-thinking, self-careful, calm and at peace with themselves. With this list of ideal characteristics, which cannot be extended any further, the question inevitably arises: How can I become such a resilience personality? And above all: Is it really necessary to have all the factors at one's disposal in order to be able to cope with life's adversities?

Resilience as an individual competence

In this regard, it is important to understand the following: Lists such as those of resilience factors make general statements related to a statistical average of the people studied. For the coach, counsellor or psychotherapist working in practice, this form of scientific knowledge is less useful. In their everyday work, they are concerned with individuals and their specific life situations. Here, the question is rather about individual resilience competence. In other words, what challenges does this particular person face? Which resilient behaviours would be appropriate for him or her? And what resilience factors does he need to be able to behave in this way? A person who is constantly in an exposed position professionally, who is expected to be diplomatic (despite his choleric temperament) and who has time constantly breathing down his neck (which does not exactly help his high blood pressure) needs competencies that are tailored to this. Yet other resilience factors help someone who is expected to be highly concentrated all the time, who tends to have a certain phlegmatism and who has more or less severe headache attacks at least once a day. This is what the practice of resilience coaching is all about: individual answers and approaches for each individual. 

Resilience coaching practice

Depending on the resilience and personality concept, there are certainly very different approaches in coaching. One very helpful approach, for example, is based on the potential hypothesis. This states that most people do not have a significant deficit in resilience competence that needs to be compensated for or plugged somehow. We have what we need in terms of competence, it is just not (sufficiently) activated (at times). Resilience coaching in this sense means "treasure hunting" and "treasure utilisation". It is about finding already existing competences and activating them. Psychological methods can help here, which each of us also uses in everyday life in our own "psycho-management" - mostly, however, without noticing it and sometimes not yet as versatile and skilful as possible. This is because this "psychomanagement" usually takes place unconsciously and involuntarily. Experts speak of hypno-imaginative, psycho-energetic and systemic constellation techniques, which we somehow manage every day and which need to be optimised in coaching. For example, by learning to access our involuntary competence. Because this type of resilience coaching builds on existing competencies as well as on "psycho-techniques" that are already used in everyday life, there is a good chance of achieving a noticeable improvement in one's own resilience competencies within a short period of time. Because as I said: There is more in us than we can dream of!

History of resilience research

Jack Block introduced the term "resilience" to science in 1950. At first, however, it remained without further attention. It was not until 20 years later that Emmy Werner and Ruth Smith took up the topic again in a highly regarded long-term study of children on the island of Kauai. Their question: Why do children develop so differently under equally bad conditions? They had observed that some grew up severely stressed and psychologically impaired, while others appeared to be able to cope with the circumstances. The researchers attributed this to differences in resilience. Since then, a large part of resilience research has been concerned with the question of which psychological factors bring about resilience and which environmental or educational conditions have a decisive influence on these factors. The current popularity of the term "resilience" is related to the growing sensitivity to topics such as stress, coping, burnout, salutogenesis and mindfulness. They all aim at a core practical problem: How can people promote and develop their mental competence in such a way that they can master the challenges of everyday life in a healthy way?


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