Resilience: The Science

“Resilience: The Science of Mastering Life’s Greatest Challenges” By Steven Southwick and Dennis Charney. (Cambridge University Press 2012)

Steven Southwick and Dennis Charney’s names are everywhere in resilience research, They have clearly studied and researched the subject for many years.  (They are also joint authors of the most comprehensive book of research papers on the subject:  “Resilience and Mental Health:  Challenges Across the Lifespan” I will review some of these papers elsewhere on the site).

This book reflects that depth of knowledge, as the evidence in favour of different behaviours and attitudes of mind are examined in terms of their value in developing resilience.  Not surprisingly the recurrent themes correspond to the elements explored on this website.

The authors also provide some explanations of the fascinating but incomprehensible research in neuroscience and what it may mean as we learn more about brain chemistry and how it affects us.

While Science has enabled us to understand the physical world in ways that have increased our rates of survival exponentially, it seems to still be true that

As a society we are used to discussing “scientific facts” while scientists refer to theories and hypothesis and weigh up evidence – some of which is contradictory, accepting that that theory which best fits the evidence may later be disproved.  As lay people we place a lot of store in statistics and sometimes fail to fully appreciate that what is true for the majority may be utterly false for an individual.  Despite all this, or perhaps even as a triumph of the human condition there is accumulating evidence that our behaviour is far more influenced by stories of the experiences of others than by “scientific evidence”.

Southwick and Charney straddle this dichotomy comfortably, as they intersperse the dry science with stories from the lives of individual’s which demonstrate the phenomena which has been researched.

There is plenty here and perhaps requires more than one read to fully appreciate.