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Transformative resilience: learning from adversity

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"Transformative resilience" is defined as thriving because  of adversity (and the lessons it teaches) as opposed to thriving "in spite of adversity," which is usually associated with the word "resilience." Stephanie and Ama Marston coined the term in their book, "Type R: Transformative Resilience for Thriving in a Turbulent World." 


The six steps to encountering adversity and turning it to one's advantage include:


  • Stage 1: Acceptance that one is in one's comfort zone and doesn't wish to have any conflict arise.
  • Stage 2: A disruption arises. This could be any issue--debt, a health crisis, a romantic tragedy, a family issue--anything that forces an individual to face a major upheaval in the status quo. 
  • Stage 3: The crisis surrounds the individual and "denial" as a defense mechanism is no longer working. Grief, self-blame and judgment cripple positive action. 
  • Stage 4: A catalyst emerges to change one's perspective. As Joseph Campbell said, "We must let go of the life we have planned so as to accept the one that is waiting for us."
  • Stage 5: Movement in a new direction becomes not only possible, but seems wise, reasonable and do-able. 
  • Stage 6: Comfort with change becomes normalized. 

Transformative resilience turns out to be contagious. It goes beyond what we experience as individuals and rubs off on those around us.


Source: " The 6 Steps to Turning Setbacks Into Advantages," by Kristin Wong, New York Times: Smarter Living, January 30, 2018. [photo from the article]

Follow up

  • In what ways do you feel you have experienced a setback or disadvantage? How have you reacted? Who have you blamed? What long terms issues has the setback caused? Have any of the steps mentioned in this article made a difference to you?
  • Read more about tranformative resilience. How has it worked in your life in little ways? How about in larger ways? What is the alternative to resilience?