Thinking about Resilience

by Jeff Doemland

What is resilience? And where does it come from? These questions were the focus of the Resiliency Summer Summit at the Child Protection Training Center of the University of South Carolina Upstate in Spartanburg, SC this week. Keynote speaker Machelle Madsen-Thompson, Ph.D. walked through case histories of children who had experienced severe trauma. Her work is about restoring the innate protective factors that become disabled in the wake of severe and repeated trauma. Her work suggests that resilience is about a kind of remembering, or a reactivation, of skills for coping with experiences, and not the imposition of new capabilities or technologies. So, more intrinsic than extrinsic.

As the Wellville 5 begin thinking about what resilience means — how to build it — and what it means to scale trauma-informed approaches across all sectors of community life, this basic understanding of the locus of resilience (inside versus outside) will be critical. Furthermore, an open appreciation for the unequal distribution of trauma — too often the result of structural injustices historical in nature — will help us identify, and help, those people who suffer most.

At the inception of this work, we look to others who have already taken steps to restore the natural functioning of these innate capabilities. One such site is Boston, MA. See their Blueprint for a resilient city here.