Nothing so captivates the human mind like the stories of resilience and triumph over incredible adversity. Why is it that some people bounce back from major life threatening losses and crises while others do not? How can we build our own resilience in the face of incessant blows from life so that we can continue to forge ahead? Scientists claim they have identified neurobiological mechanisms that promote resilience to adversity and stress, and that gene-gene and gene-environment interactions determine inter-individual variability in responding to crises; a form of response heterogeneity. For example, a monoamine oxidase A (MAO-A)-COMT interaction affects endocrine responses to crises. Psychosocial scientists claim that a resilient individual focuses on the resources on hand instead of the current pathological threat. But a predisposition to resilience is of little value unless it is stirred into action. Finding meaning in life and connecting with it causes that stirring; a fundamental factor in building resilience. Meaning arouses the invincibility and indomitableness of the human spirit. It allows us to develop goals that defy immediate crises, and helps us focus on the reality of the future.

The most famous example of resiliency is Viktor Frankl, psychiatrist, holocaust survivor and founder of Logotherapy. Listen to his position regarding crises and suffering: “In some ways suffering ceases to be suffering at the moment it finds a meaning, such as the meaning of a sacrifice…Everyone has his own specific vocation or mission in life; everyone must carry out a concrete assignment that demands fulfillment. Therein he cannot be replaced, nor can his life be repeated. Thus, everyone’s task is unique as is his specific opportunity to implement it.” Because of such a mindset, Frankl emerged from the horror of the holocaust with a deeper and a richer meaning for life. He was able to write 32 books that were translated into 20 languages!! He used his discipline of Logotherapy to help patients improve their mental health by encouraging them to discover meaning to their lives. Frankl further asserts: “We must never forget that we may also find meaning in life even when confronted with a hopeless situation, when facing a fate that cannot be changed. For what then matters is to bear witness to the uniquely human potential at its best, which is to transform a personal tragedy into a triumph, to turn one’s predicament into a human achievement. When we are no longer able to change a situation (just think of an incurable disease such as inoperable cancer) we are challenged to change ourselves.” By deliberately changing our perspective about daunting situations which we are not able to change, we can ultimately overcome them; we refuse to let them master us, thus developing remarkable resilience.

I do not know what you are facing right now. But believe me, there is meaning and purpose to it and you have the potential within you to master it: Emerson once remarked that “What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us.” The Bible tells us that “…greater is He who is in you than he who is in the world,” 1 John 4:4.

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