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Resilience – the Psychologist’s view

Tuesday 13 March 2018

We have been considering the Queenswood Quality of resilience this term. Whenever an English teacher hears that word there’s always one poem for which she or he reaches.

If – Rudyard Kipling

I’ve always hated this poem. There is certainly some good advice – qualities such as patience, self-control and level-headedness are to be prized – but surely it lacks heart. ‘If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster / And treat those two impostors just the same’…Have you ever met anyone for whom disaster is not totally devastating? And would you trust anyone who claims that they cannot be hurt?


Resilience is an interesting quality, and it’s more complicated than Kipling allows.

What is it that makes some people bounce back from problems quickly, whilst others fall apart?

Resilience is a toughness. It’s that which is inside you that refuses to allow negative experiences to define you. It’s what puts a smile on your face when things are tough and pulls you out of bed to face the world.

Resilience is knowing that you are the most important person in deciding how your life goes and, what is more, that nothing anyone else says or does is anywhere near as important as what you do.

Psychologists tell us that resilience is actually not an especially common human trait.

There are countless infamous Psychology experiments where people ‘follow the crowd’ because they do not have the resilience to say, ‘No. I choose what to do, not you.’

There’s that phrase that I’m sure your parents have said to you when you’ve done something foolish because a friend did: ‘Would you jump off a cliff if they told you to?’ The scientific data suggest that if there are two or more other people telling you to, most people probably would!

But not everyone. And this is where resilience comes in.

In 1966, psychologist Julian B. Rotter defined resilience as something called your Locus of Control. Resilient people have an INTERNAL LOCUS, which means that they are in charge of their own decisions, whereas people who lack resilience have an EXTERNAL LOCUS – believing that the world affects their ability to make decisions.

But we can change. Our locus of control can shift. The more we are aware of how our mindset affects our happiness, the further we can move it.

We can develop that toughness and pull responsibility for our lives inside ourselves. It might not, to paraphrase Kipling, make you a man, but it will make you happier.

Why not take the test yourself?

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