Tuesday, 12 January 2016

resilience: nature or nurture?

Yesterday someone asked me in an Email exchange: 

"Do you think that you were born with such resilience or have you nurtured it and developed it through life?"

and I answered:

"Born resilient just as all of us were ..... (person's name). And cultivated it over the years by resisting institutionalised thinking and treatment!"

my mother in her 40's South Inch Perth
It was an automatic response.  I didn't think about it.  And there's truth in it from where I'm standing.  For my parents and grandparents encouraged me to be strong, independent and resistant.  My father taught me to box to defend myself before I was 5.  My arm and leg breaks at ages 6 and 7 made me more careful when playing but didn't stop me taking risks.  I learnt what medical care could be like in hospitals and in the community.  The good bits and the bad bits.  I was always a quick learner.  Eventually anyway ...

My mother taught me the most in terms of resisting the psychiatric system, its stigma and discrimination.  Her dignity in the face of coercive drug treatment and forced ECT was amazing and humbling.  I couldn't have done it.  She was a loyal mother, a homemaker and gentlewoman.  Even in dying she was gracious and it was a privilege to be with her in the final days of March 1998. 

So I believe that resilience is natural and requires nurture to keep it alive and strong.  We owe it to ourselves to give it oxygen.  

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