Resilience for Adult Survivors – Why is it different?

Posted by on Jul 22, 2015 in adult survivor of child abuse, truth | 3 comments

Resilience for Adult Survivors - Why is
re·sil·ience
1. the ability of a substance or object to spring back into shape; elasticity.
“nylon is excellent in wearability and resilience”
2. the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties; toughness.
“the often remarkable resilience of so many British institutions”

To relate this to an adult survivor of child abuse, as defined by Caroline Clauss-Ehlers (Diversity Training for Classroom Teaching, Chapter 12):
Resilience has been defined as “the ability to thrive, mature, and increase competence in the face of adverse circumstances or obstacles” (Gordon, 1996, p. 63). It has also been viewed as a “process, capacity or outcome of successful adaptation despite challenges or threatening circumstances…good outcomes despite high risk status, sustained competence under threat and recovery from trauma” (Masten, Best, & Garmezy, 1990, p. 426). Given the prevalence of child abuse, resilience is critical for coping as it means children are better able to deal with life circumstances. Better coping is preventive in the sense that children with resilience resources are better equipped to avoid the development of future problems (Kumpfer, 1999).

The question that prompts the discussion of being resilient as an adult survivor is – Why are some adult survivors able to break the chain of the abuse and learn to thrive, and others cannot?


From all of the various experiences and stories that I have heard personally, read, or shared myself, there does not appear to be a correlation of the level of abuse. There are survivors that seem to have truly risen from the ashes of a hellish childhood, strong in themselves and making a positive difference in their communities.  There are parents that were abused terribly as a child, who then broke the cycle and made the conscious decision to not repeat the abuse onto their own children.

Then there is the other end of the spectrum that various social workers and therapists see almost daily. Adults that cannot seem to keep it together, suffering from various addictions, and either neglecting their children, or repeating the cycle of abuse that they experienced themselves.In my own observations, the main concept, or conscious thought that seems to alter is the level of accountability that the individual is willing to accept for their present day choices or actions.  The adult individual, or parent, who refuses to carry on the abusive patterns, appears to hold themselves responsible when it comes to their interactions with others.  A common statement is, “I may have been hurt, but that doesn’t give me the right to hurt anyone else.”  This is personally how I view it as well. My children deserve all of the unconditional love and support I never received.  They deserve to know a life of peace and joy, not suffering. In my mind, this is the most logical train of thought. This is truth.

However, as I’m continually learning the reality and big picture of adult survivors, I’m forced to see that there is a completely different mindset that exists. There are adults who cannot break the cycle, and seem to be oblivious to the very fact that they are re-victimizing.  “This is how I was raised, and I turned out fine“, or “The kid/person was asking for it” for whatever reason or justification. The ability to step back and realize that they CAN make the choice in how they treat others, and that they can change their beliefs and behavior, isn’t as easily accepted, or even recognized. They appear to be in a constant state of “victim”, reacting to external stimulus and trauma-induced triggers.  In general, these people aren’t born bad.  They didn’t come into this world as a baby, with an internal mean streak.  They were treated in the way they treat others. They were taught the behaviors and choices.

The ASCA organization in Australia states:
The psychological impact of childhood trauma and abuse does not only depend on the type of trauma experienced, but differs as a result of a number of variables. The extent and nature of the impact varies from person to person. A number of reviews have estimated that between a third to half of all individuals who have experienced sexual abuse no longer exhibit adult psychiatric or psychological problems. It has been suggested that they can therefore be referred to as ‘resilient’ (Fergusson & Mullen, 1999; McGloin & Widom, 2001)

They describe the other factors that show as consistently relevant as:
~ Cognitive ability and personality factors.
~ Family reactions and background.
~ Supportive Relationships.

Even while considering these factors, I’m still at the present state of trying to understand the “Why” and the “What“.  What is it that makes each individual decide to flip their internal switch to either “Thriver” or “Victim“? Why was I able to recognize that my biological mother’s behavior was wrong?  How did I know?  What was it in my heart and spirit that spoke clearly to me, saying “This is not how I want to live. This is not how I will choose to make anyone else feel.  Ever.”  Do I have an amazing Guardian Angel who wore a permanent face-palm facial expression during my late teens and early 20’s?  Was I born with a stronger will, and sense of self?  Why?

facepalm angel(My Guardian Angel)

If you are a survivor that chose the “Thriver” switch – why do you think you were able to do it?  Was it because of external factors, internal characteristics, spirit/soul, etc?  Have you done research on this factor, and if so – what have you found?

As always, we are all on this healing journey together.  Let’s continue to support each other, and strive to be the candle of hope and strength for ourselves, and others.

Blessings to you,

Heather Durling, The Phoenix Gathering
“One Starfish At a Time.”
Proud Member of www.TheWellnessUniverse.com ‪#‎WUVIP‬

Copyright 2015 The Phoenix Gathering. All Rights Reserved.

%d bloggers like this: