Some highlights to mull over from a long yet interesting article – Put Down the Self Help Books: Resilience is not a DIY Endeavour by Michael Ungur – Canada Research Chair in Child, Family and Community Resilience, a professor of social work at Dalhousie University and a family therapist. The essay is adapted from “Change Your World: The Science of Resilience and the True Path to Success.” Globe and Mail, May 26, 2019
TED Talks and talk shows full of advice on what to eat, what to think and how to live seldom work. Self-help fixes are like empty calories: the effects are fleeting and often detrimental in the long term. Worse, they promote victim blaming. The notion that your resilience is your problem alone is ideology, not science.
The science shows that all the internal resources we can muster are seldom of much use without a nurturing environment. Furthermore, if those resources are not immediately at hand, we are better off trying to change our world to gain those resources than we are trying to change ourselves.
The research from Dalhousie shows that even the worst problems are not beyond the control of individuals if we think about changing environments more than changing ourselves.
Remarkably few studies to date have asked the obvious question: Does resilience depend on the services we receive?
Results from after years of work on selected adolescents and young adults who were using multiple services showed the relationship between risk exposure, resilience and behavioural outcomes for almost 500 young people, all of them facing serious challenges. The results were later verified with more than 7,000 young people around the world. This was the first proof that let the team say with certainty that resilience depends more on what we receive than what we have within us. These resources, more than individual talent or positive attitude, accounted for the difference between youths who did well and those who slid into drug addiction, truancy and high-risk sexual activity.
Shape the right environment for a troubled child, and the child changes for the better.
The science of resilience is clear: The social, political and natural environments in which we live are far more important to our health, fitness, finances and time management than our individual thoughts, feelings or behaviours. When it comes to well-being and finding success, environments matter.