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General Articles

Dealing with traumatic events - Resilience Toolbox

By Judy Churchill

I am very often asked during coaching sessions what we can do to make ourselves more resilient. Many people believe that some folk are just born resilient and that if you are a ‘weak’ person, then that’s the way you are, full stop. Nothing could be further from the truth! As I mentioned last month resilience is learned, so as promised this month we are going to look at a resilience toolbox that you can use to help you or others overcome major challenges or traumatic situations in life.

Firstly it’s important to say that at some point in your life you will inevitably be faced with a crushingly devastating situation. However if you are prepared you can sail through it and carry on.

One of the first organisations to recognise this fact was The Outward Bound Trust.

Here is an extract from the history of Outward Bound, which illustrates what I mean:

“Outward Bound was set up not to change lives but to save them.

In the dark days of 1941 we were losing hundreds of young merchant seamen in the North Atlantic – why? Because they were inexperienced and lacked confidence. They were simply not strong enough to survive in the water when their ships were torpedoed from underneath them. Outward Bound was designed to give them that confidence. It was done by facing them with a series of outdoor challenges that brought out the best in them.

It assured them, in other words, that they were better than they knew. After the war it was decided to apply the very same principles for the young people of the next generation and the next and the next. They may not have had a world war to fight but the following generations needed as much confidence as they could muster as they grew up.”

Well today, the latest generation really do have a war to fight and a very insidious one at that. Terrorism is at the heart of their daily lives and for the first time from September, all French schools will be training pupils how to act in case of a terrorist attack and also in basic first aid.

These measures are extremely important not only to help save lives but also to help children be ‘prepared’ to face up to reality and carry on following an attack in the best possible way. Perception is the key here – events are not traumatic until we experience them as traumatic. So it’s the dialogue we have with ourselves and each other that will make the difference.

Beginner’s Tool Box to Resilience:

1. Face up to reality.
Don’t be optimistic be realistic. Optimism has its place when you are required to be creative but to deal with a massive challenge, a cool head and a sense of reality is what is important and this will allow you to make rational, non emotional decisions.

2. Give your life Purpose and Meaning:
Following a traumatic experience to be able to survive your life must immediately find a purpose, or a reason for living. Ask yourself: what will you change? What will you do differently when the ordeal is over? Make it your goal to learn life skills and a new attitude. If you have children make sure that they are taught life skills both at home and in school. Send your children on resilience training courses such as Outward Bound. Monaco has a branch and Vanessa will be happy to give you information.

3. Develop a strong Value System:
Once you have developed a strong value system, do NOT allow people into your life that do not share the same values. Build your own ‘credo’. This will be your road map for knowing which people you can trust and which you should reject. Resilience is the skill and capacity to be ROBUST under conditions of enormous stress and change but no one said you have to go it alone. The most resilient people build a strong support network but only with people who share their same values.

4. Develop Ingenuity or ‘Bricolage’
If you have ingenuity, you have the ability to be inventive or to improve a situation or in the words of French anthropologist Claude Levi-Strauss ‘the skill of ‘bricolage’, (in the old sense of the word), is the ability to improvise a solution to a problem without proper tools or materials.’ When a crisis occurs a ‘bricoleur’ will get through it by hook or by crook finding possible solutions and escape routes while others are left rooted to the spot. Once again this particular survival tool is taught on resilience courses.

With these four initial tools you can and will bounce back after adversity with minimal collateral or emotional damage. Holocaust survivors have done it, POWs have done, families involved in the recent terror attacks in France and Germany have done it, and survivors of the recent earthquake in Italy are doing it as you read this article.

Without these skills there is very little chance that either you or your offspring will be equipped to deal with the next major crisis - and there will be one - so be prepared smiley

If you would like to receive coaching, training or tutoring from Judy, you can contact her on: and

Thursday, 1 September 2016    Section: General Articles
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