Robert J. Wicks’ Bounce: Living the Resilient Life takes a holistic approach to resilience, focusing on principles such as self-care, mindfulness, and compassion. The author, a doctor of psychology, has experience in working with relief workers and health care professionals treating veterans—individuals that often suffer from second-hand stress. The book is nevertheless generally useful, covering situations as common as financial woes and everyday stress. Bounce is a fast read, made even faster by an abundance of bulleted lists and self-diagnostic tools that should engage the reader long after the first reading.
Wicks emphasizes different means of self-care and renewal as solutions to managing acute and chronic stress. Self-care—basically anything one enjoys doing to relieve stress—is described by Wicks as a “necessary source of constant renewal,” rather than a luxury. Similarly:
- a balanced circle of friends
- an awareness of one’s strengths and weaknesses
are proposed as indispensable precursors to resilience. Consequently, Wicks presents a different view of resilience from most clinicians. For him resilience encompasses self-awareness, compassion, and openness to life’s experiences in addition to the more traditional focus of dealing healthily with stress. His is a new yet accessible approach.
Resilience: The Science of Mastering Life’s Greatest Challenges,
Steven M. Southwick, MD, and Dennis S. Charney, MD
Books about resilience often focus largely on positive thinking and self-confidence. Resilience does require both but that approach does not appeal to everyone. Resilience: The Science of Mastering Life’s Greatest Challenges provides an alternative.
The authors, Steven M. Southwick and Dennis S. Charney, are psychiatrists who are authorities in the field of post-traumatic stress disorder. Like Laurence Gonzales,
they interviewed a number of people that have persevered after suffering extreme trauma: Army Special Forces members, former Vietnam prisoners-of-war, survivors of a land mine explosion and of attempted murder.
Through their interviews, Southwick and Charney uncovered ten common habits which we summarize below. Most interestingly, the authors distinguish their book by grounding their observations in physiology. Each chapter is devoted to one way of recovering from stress and trauma and includes neurobiological evidence in support of that method. Relevant scientific research is duly cited but our readers need not shy away. Resilience remains a slim, readable book, with plenty of vignettes. It was a joy to read.
Evidence shows that most people experience some trauma but can train themselves to overcome life’s challenges and even thrive. Here are Southwick and Charney’s ten recommendations for building and sustaining resilience:
- Be optimistic
- Face your fears
- Trust your moral compass, ethics and altruistic dispositions
- Lean on your religious and spiritual convictions
- Give and receive social support
- Have good role models
- Build physical fitness
- Cultivate mental fitness
- Develop cognitive and emotional flexibility
- Find meaning, purpose and growth in your life.
Drs. Steven M. Southwick and Dennis S. Charney can be found at resilienceinus.com
Laurence Gonzales’ Surviving Survival is in some ways a sequel his best-selling Deep Survival. As the title suggest, this book goes beyond the work of staying alive and persevering during especially challenging moments to examine how does one live with and manage the aftermath of trauma. Gonzales uses a series of often harrowing mini-biographies to delve into the role and potentialities of the brain and the mind. This reader got the general sense that Gonzales believes in the innate hardiness of some individuals but he is at pains to draw out lessons for all of us. We have taken the liberty of distilling these 12 lessons even further:
- Take control. Devote yourself passionately to something connected to your ideal self.
- Be mindful. Get off autopilot and listen to your mind and body. Allow your unconscious brain resources such as blindsight to guide you via gut feelings.
- Be patient. Trust the process of recovery.
- Be tough. Look around at the suffering that is not happening to you. When it is your turn, own it.
- Find joy in the small things. Even under conditions of extreme suffering moments of relative lightness can be found
- Face your fears and put them in a rational context. Leverage rituals.
- Stay busy.
- Help others.
- Stay connected to your friends and community
- Be grateful. At the very least, you have survived and are still here. There is probably even more to be grateful for.
- Fake it until you feel it. Act as if you are better and you will feel and be better
- Lighten up. Even morbid humor helps.
Gonzales’ various subjects survived IEDs, murderous spouses and attacks from bears and sharks. We can build our own resilience in the face of life’s smaller insults by incorporating these lesson’s into our daily routine.