Positive Psychology – Resilience

Resilience in positive psychology is defined as a person’s ability to face adequately stress and challenges and successfully overcome them. The arisen problems may be a result of conflicts at the workplace, financial issues, individual’s anxiety or misunderstandings within a family. A person shows his/her resilience when he/she can easily cope with these difficulties and save the same balance in his/her life as it has been before these problems. Some people believe that resilience is a virtue of the selected few ones. Only they can easily and successfully resist the life challenges. However, resilience is not a rare ability. It is a natural phenomenon which can be discovered in an average individual. It is the ability; hence, it can be learned, developed, and improved if a person makes enough efforts for achieving a goal.

The studies in positive psychology have showed that any individual who wants to learn using a resilience approach should have certain abilities. They include such as making the realistic plans for future and taking necessary steps to follow them, having good communication skills, being confident in personal’s strengths and abilities, and also being able to manage his/her own emotions and impulses.

According to this fact, resilience is a term of a wide comprehension which is usually viewed in a wrong way. The misunderstanding of the core principles of this psychological method leads to wrong attempts to use this approach in practice. In order to understand the nature of resilience, one should analyze it more deeply, taking into consideration various opinions, studies, and views on this issue.

Historical Background

The first findings about resilience were published in 1973 by Garmezy (Bhamra, Dani, & Burnard, 2011). The researcher has used epidemiological data to identify the categories of people which get ill and which do not. T0he goal of his study was to identify the factors leading to the illnesses and which preventive measures could be taken to avoid them. During this study, Garmezy has come to such a conclusion that, besides the direct causes, there are also indirect ones. He has found out certain factors that help to identify the resilience phenomenon.

The term resilience was used for the first time by Emmy Werner in the 1970s. She studied the children’s development from Kauai. This region has always been very poor; many children had grown up in families, where parents often were drinking, did not have a permanent place of work or were having some mental disorders. In other words, the development of children’s behavior had very bad conditions. As a result, the two-third of kids growing up in poor conditions were categorized as a group of society which does not have a permanent job, often drinks alcohol, and has out-of-wedlock children (Bhamra, Dani, & Burnard, 2011). However, the rest of kids, which is about one-third, did not show the same behavior in future. They could overcome the negative influence of their parents and achieve better conditions of life. Werner has classified this group of children as resilient, those who had made a difference in their lives and coped with challenges met at the moment when they were young.

Resilience has been introduced by many other studies of human psychology. However, in all cases, the researchers have come to a conclusion that resilience is a specific ability to resist a negative impact or the conditions of life. According to these studies, it can be said that it is a paradigm of protective factors that helps people to adapt to the challengeable conditions, such as poverty, cruelty, injustice or some catastrophic life events and overcome them without losing the faith in a better life.

Typologies of Resilience

The numerous attempts to introduce resilience have created a great variety of approaches to this psychological term. In order to illustrate the contradictions within the studies and different views on this term, it was necessary to classify resilience into typologies. Bruneau has outlined two main typologies of resilience (Reid & Botterill, 2013).

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  • The first one introduces this phenomenon as a system reducing the possible failures, the consequences from failures, such as damage, loss or negative feelings, and a recovery process.
  • The second typology predetermines resilience as robustness, resourcefulness, redundancy, and rapidity. Robustness identifies the level of stress, finds the appropriate solutions to resist stress, and minimizes the possible degradation and losses that may be caused by this stress. Resourcefulness is an ability to identify a problem, analyze its core reasons, outline some elements that lead to these problems, and mobilize the resources necessary to cope with difficulties. Redundancy is an ability to follow the requirements in the conditions of disruption, degradation, loss or stress. In other words, when a person faces difficulties, he/she does not lose his/her functionality. Rapidity means that an individual is able to meet the requirements in a timely manner, avoiding losses and future disruptions.

Another classification of resilience has been proposed by Dovers and Handmer. It also consists of two typologies (Reid & Botterill, 2013). The first typology is subdivided into three types. The first one is called resistance to change, the second – is an incremental change, and the third type is openness and adaptability. The second type of resistance includes proactive resilience and reactive resilience. According to Dovers and Handmer, the initial one is an ability to cope with changes and moving towards sustainability. Reactive resilience has an opposite meaning. It is a system which does not accept changes and resists them.

The typologies presented by Bruneau as well as Dovers and Handmer are more oriented on a communicable aspect of resilience, while the more latter studies are dedicated to various applications of a resilience concept. For instance, Carpenter identifies resilience as an adaptive capacity (Reid & Botterill, 2013). Despite the fact that these two approaches of resilience classification are very close, the disputes about these two terms still exist. In other words, adaptive capacity is often viewed as a response to the environmental, actual and perceptive changes. Moreover, adaptive capacity is also referred to the system’s ability to make the necessary adaptations. On the other hand, the typologies proposed by Bruneau, Dovers, and Handmer demonstrate that a person is the one who is responsible for adopting changes. Besides the individual is the one who chooses the way to resist them, i.e. these changes (Reid & Botterill, 2013).

To sum up, it can be said that resilience is a wide term; hence, it includes various forms of its interpretations, understanding and introducing. The researchers who tried to classify it have used different approaches; thus, their vision of this issue focuses only on a specific aspect of a resilience concept. According to this fact, one cannot introduce the only one typology of this phenomenon which will include all specters of all its sub-types and present the diversity of this issue. Hence, if one wants to find some information about the specific aspect of resilience, he/she should take into consideration the great variety of approaches that exist today in a positive psychology.

Positive Emotions

Resilience is mistakenly viewed as a result, while it should be perceived as a process. The widespread misconception is that a person using this approach does not experience any negative emotions and always has a positive thinking in any situation. In fact, it is not a true way that the resilience works. It is an ability to control the one’s emotions and thoughts. It means that the person does not let his/her negative emotions gain an advantage of the own positive ones. Hence, those people who show resilience can effectively balance between their positive and negative emotions.

As it has been mentioned above, resilience is often viewed as a positive perception of life. People, who demonstrate positive emotions, easier cope with challenges and adapt to new conditions of life. Despite the fact that resilience predetermines more than a positive way of thinking, positive emotions have a significant contribution on the resilience phenomenon. The researches demonstrate that positive emotions promote flexibility in thinking and a decision making process (Arora & Rangnekar, 2014). Moreover, they help an individual to recover faster after the stressful situations and do not accept it too seriously.

Researchers do not state that positive emotions are a product of resilience. Probably, they perform a bilateral function. On the one hand, the resilience stimulates obeying positive emotions in order to correspond to make this phenomenon possible. On the other hand, positive emotions are a way to achieve that state of resilience. According to this fact, it can be said that positive emotions are a cause, a product, an effect, and a result of resilience.

The empirical evidences indicate that a person with positive emotions tries to find a benefit in every situation that he/she faces. In this way, an individual may use such demonstrations of positive emotions like humor, optimism or cognitive reappraisal to solve a conflict. Hence, the usage of positive emotional resources declines an impact of negative ones on the individual’s consciousness.

Positive emotions do not have an effect on physical consequences, such as solving of a conflict situation or a problem. However, they also have some psychological benefits. The mental health is as well important as the physical state of a human organism. Negative emotions impact the psychological health the same way as viruses and illnesses affect the physiological state. The positive emotions lead to an increase of immunoglobulin A, which serves as a first defense against respiratory diseases (Burnard & Bhamra, 2011). Moreover, a fast injury recovery as well as reducing the time of treatment in hospitals is also much influenced by these benefits.

According to these facts, it can be said that mental health as well as the physical one of an individual has a direct connection with the prevailing of positive or negative emotions in the individual’s life. Hence, resilience is not only the way to cope with challenges, but it is also a means that can prolong the human’s life.

Resilience-Building Approach

According to the American Psychological Association, there are eight rules that an individual should follow, if he/she wants to develop such quality as resilience (Donaldsona, Dollweta, & Raoa, 2014).

Here are these eight pieces of advice presented below:

  • Establish good relationships with friends, relatives, and co-workers;
  • Accept the life as it is; especially those life’s circumstances that cannot be changed;
  • Do not view stressful or challengeable situations as something that cannot be solved;
  • Establish realistic goals and follow them;
  • After a loss, try to analyze what causes have led to those losses;
  • Try to have a wider look on a challengeable situation;
  • Take care about the one’s mind and body;
  • Pay attention to one’s inner needs and feelings;
  • Develop self-confidence.

These tips help a person to develop such quality as resilience. The advice has proved that resilience is not the inborn benefit that only some people possess. Any person can learn how to use resilience in his/her life in order to achieve his/her own advantages. The list of tips is the recommendations being oriented more on personal qualities and a way of thinking. For instance, self-confidence is an individual’s characteristic that can be improved within the time. The same thing concerns such qualities like care about mind and body. A person is the only one who is responsible for his/her mental and physical health. According to this fact, it can be said that resilience is much dependent on the person’s desire to make a difference in his/her life and worldview. The way the individual views this world predetermines all his/her further actions, including the perception of the surrounding world and the reaction on the events happening in his/her life.


As a conclusion, it can be said that such phenomenon as resilience includes more than a positive perception of life. Many people confuse this concept with a positive way of thinking; they believe that revealing only positive emotions and ignoring negative ones is the right position in the life. In fact, a person cannot forbid him/her to feel negative emotions or have negative thoughts, but he/she cannot let these thoughts captured his/her mind and dictate how to behave. Resilience means that the person brings his/her positive thoughts to front and block such negative emotions as anxiety, stress or worry. Whatever emotions the person experiences, they can hardly change the situation that the individual faces. In any case, the one should solve a problem, a challengeable situation or a conflict. In the end, any problem will be solved. Sometimes it will have positive results, while sometimes it will not be so good. However, positive emotions help to cope with difficulties with more enthusiasm. As a result, there are more chances that they can be solved successfully. Moreover, resilience helps to save the human’s wellbeing. Negative emotions destruct the people’s consciousness, while positive thinking makes the person healthier both mentally and physically.


Arora, R., & Rangnekar, S. (2014). Workplace mentoring and career resilience: An empirical test. The Psychologist-Manager Journal, 17(3), 205-220.

Bhamra, R., Dani, S., & Burnard, K. (2011). Resilience: The concept, a literature review and future directions. International Journal of Production Research, 49(18), 5375-5393.

Burnard, K., & Bhamra, R. (2011). Organisational resilience: Development of a conceptual framework for organisational responses. International Journal of Production Research, 49(18), 5581-5599.

Donaldsona, S. I., Dollweta, M., & Raoa, M. A. (2014). Happiness, excellence, and optimal human functioning revisited: Examining the peer-reviewed literature linked to positive psychology. The Journal of Positive Psychology, 1-11.

Reid, R., & Botterill, L. C. (2013). The multiple meanings of ‘resilience’: An overview of the literature the multiple meanings of ‘resilience’: An overview of the literature. Australian Journal of Public Administration, 72(1), 31-40.

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