Monday, October 7, 2019
Resilience Is The Wrong Word
The word, resilience—all the rage in the mental health world—is actually incorrect, erroneous, misleading, even dangerous.
According to the Oxford dictionary, resilience means:
a. the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties, and;
b. the ability of a substance or object to spring back into shape, elasticity, as in:
Nylon is excellent in wearability and resilience.
We human beings are anything but nylon.
To compare psychophysiological reactions to trauma to a type of plastic is, well, insulting.
We just don’t spring back into shape.
We change, morph, alter.
Catherine Malabou, a contemporary French philosopher, coined the phrase plasticity to refer to how we humans change in response to trauma. Her metaphor suffers from the same inhumane connotation. But she’s more on track.
Because Malabou acknowledges that people are transformed by trauma.
They do not snap back like rubber bands.
Eschewing words that render us machines, like resilience, plasticity, or even self-regulation—one of my favorite psychoanalytic-words-to-hate—I view trauma as an inevitable life event that shapes or sculpts us.
Newly chiseled, our personalities, even our physiologies, move forward forever altered. Life may be viewed as an unfolding process of comedies and tragedies which transform us.
Trauma strengthens us in some ways; it weakens us in others.
Nietzsche was not entirely correct when he wrote:
That which doesn’t kill us makes us stronger.
He was partially correct. Yes, we emerge stronger in many ways but more vulnerable in others.
My two bouts with endocarditis in the past ten years, each requiring open heart surgery to replace infected aortic valves, left me more appreciative of life. It also left me with a greater sense of vulnerability, of danger. I feel prepared for a sudden, negative change at any turn.
This post extends the last two I wrote concerning a medical problem, involving cancer, in my dear friend, Jill. You can find those posts here:
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