The study of traumatic stress resilience can be at the level of the molecular or examining the complex interplay of psychological, social, behavioural and biological factors as the organism attempts to maintain “system stability” or homeostasis. It has been suggested that extremely potent traumatic experiences are capable of overwhelming the resilience of the individual or group experiencing them, for example, the genocide in Rwanda (e.g., Dyregrov et al., 2000). However, even the most inherently awful event does not lead invariably to the development of a psychological disorder, with many individuals demonstrating remarkable resilience to intense exposure.
Clinically, resilience relates to the ability of individuals to return to their previous function after a period of adversity or trauma, and is generally accepted to be common and linked to the basic human ability to adapt to new situations. Resilience is not the avoidance of distress but the individual’s adaptation to the event and their return to previous function. It emphasises the necessity for limits of tolerance not to be exceeded for too long as is likely with prolonged adversity. In effect the individual does not so much “bounce back” as “bounce forward” as a new normality is constructed.
Resilience can be considered a multidimensional characteristic which varies within the context of the individuals and their environment, with an individual likely to have resilience in certain domains and be less resilient in others, i.e., functioning well in one area of their life (e.g., work) but not another (e.g., interpersonal afﬁ liation). An intriguing component of this is that individuals may have resilience in one domain but suffer a cost in another, for example, the dissociation of trauma that allows individuals to excel at their studies but suffer from an eating disorder related to their trauma history. Vulnerability in one domain may be offset by resilience in another; the very resilience which allowed a young person to survive developmental trauma and a lack of a suitable caregiver may mean they are less likely to present for treatment, or if they do, ﬁnd afﬁliation aversive.
(Extracted from) The Comprehensive Resource Model: Effective Therapeutic Techniques for the Healing of Complex Trauma, written by Lisa Schwarz, Frank Corrigan, Alastair Hull and Rajiv Raju, published by Routledge, 2017 pages 26-27