RESILIENCE IN LIFE
There is a village by name Nadur near Mettupalayam in Tamil Nadu. A compound wall, constructed by a high caste rich man to separate the dwellings of Dalits from the dwellings of the high caste people in the village, collapsed on 2nd December 2019. The wall extended to 80 feet long and 20 feet high. The collapsed wall killed 17 Dalit people. One of the men in that village who survived this tragedy was a worker called Mr. Selvaraj. His house was right behind that infamous wall.
He earned his livelihood by ferrying sand for the builders. His wife worked as a cooly in a construction site. They had two children – Nivedha and Ramanathan. One day, his wife fell from the building which was under construction and was seriously injured. He had to be bed ridden for several weeks. After few months, she felt better, she started working, as the income of her husband was not sufficient for the family with the growing children and for their education. With the savings they had put up a small house near the infamous wall. But soon his wife became sick and died. Now he had to take up the responsibility of a father and mother to his children. He started working in tea shop. Nivedha completed her schooling and joined in a nursing college and Ramanathan was doing XI Std. These two children were his hope for a better future. It gave meaning and motivation to the poor widower to keep working.
On the night 2 December, 2019 it was raining heavily he could not return home and he chose to sleep in the tea shop, where he was working. His children were sleeping in his house. On 2 December 2019 around 5.30 a.m., the villager came rushing to give him the shocking news that his two children and 15 others were seriously injured and they were taken to the hospital. He rushed to the hospital, where he learnt that his two children had died along with 15 others.
Life is beautiful and worth living and yet challenging. There are times when one has to deal with life – changing situation and stressful conditions – the death of a loved one, loss of job, set back in a relationship, serious illness and other dramatic events. What enables some people to adapt and blossom in spite of these adversities? What makes them to lead a normal state of functioning? It is their ability to “Bounce back and stay strong” despite their troubles is called “Resilience”. Mr. Selvaraj in midst of continual trials he donated the eyes of two children to the hospital. This act of generosity which gave meaning to his life is called “Resilience”.
One can use his personal resources, strengths and convictions which can overcome one’s challenges. These are called protective factors. There are 8 protective factors which could help one to be resilient in the midst of adversities.
a) Family and Friends: Seeds of resilience can be sown already during the childhood by the parents. Having caring and supportive relationships within family bolsters a person’s resilience. Parents who raise their children by being kind and loving but firm, who allow them to make healthy choices and to take on more responsibility, produce children who are self-reliant, self-regulated and are able to adopt stress in the environment. On the other hand children raised by parents who are inflexible, militant and expect blind obedience grow to be rebellious, dependent and lack self control in their behavior.
Good relationships not only within the family circle but also outside the family help in strengthening resilience. Having strong social connections with friends who provide social support and a listening ear is a valuable component in enabling a person to rebound more quickly after difficult events in their life.
b) Environment: Other than the healthy relationships, supportive environment also enable children to develop their resilience. Our environment such as schools, availability of health care, and access to green space contributes much for our development. Schools which enable individuals to develop life skills are epicenters of developing resilience.
c) Self Image: Another factor that can help increase resilience is nurturing a positive image of ourselves. Most of us judge ourselves harshly because we used to compare ourselves with others. We must be happy with what we are. We must know our strength and weakness. Some are always worried about what others say and expect. We should avoid putting on masks according to the social standards and expectations. We should celebrate our gifts and concentrate on developing them. The positive self image of oneself helps one to be resilient in moments of difficult times.
d) Optimism: Optimism is a belief that good things will happen in the future. Cultivating optimism in children will help them to grow up in being able to see and focus on the good in themselves, in others and in the world around them. In the wake of disturbing experiences optimism acts as a buffer against stress on the mind and body. Optimism allows people to have access to their cognitive resources and analyze the situation with a cool head. It further allows options in choosing effective behavioral paths. Optimism motivates people to take constructive action to reduce the sense of helplessness in difficult situations of their life.
e) Emotion: Unfortunate events in life normally create emotional outbursts. If one has the authority to regulate emotions, it contributes to resilience in moments of stressful events of life. Among adolescents, emotional regulations have been found to be helpful tool in preventing irrational and risky behaviors.
f) Problem Solving Skills: Problems are part and parcel of life and no one is exempt from this. However, the way we handle about them, can help in building resilience. Problem solving can be seen as a skill to evaluate information and seek out logical solutions to problems. It involves stopping and identifying the actual problem and generating different options in a comprehensive way to solve them, being aware of the consequences of the solutions. The outcomes are monitored so that the problem is eventually resolved.
g) Spirituality: It can function as a protective factor that can be used in times of crisis. Relationship with the Divine makes one feel secure because who is greater than mortals. It provides necessary support and needed tools to overcome the present challenges. Spirituality influences a positive attitude on how people adapt to challenges inherent in human being, thereby promoting resilience.
h) Self Regulation: It is also called self control, self-discipline. It is a process of managing behaviors in relation to planning, monitoring and evaluating specific task related goals. Such an ability to self regulative behavior is associated with resilience and is one of the significant protective factors in cultivating resilience.
The road to resilience is an ongoing personal journey. It involves behaviors, thoughts and actions that can be learned and fostered to rise from the dust.
I wish you all a very Happy Easter!
Most Rev. Dr. M. Devadass Ambrose
Bishop of Thanjavur