The Benefits and Limitations of Resilience


While resilience is beneficial to mental health, we need to reduce the reasons individuals require resilience.




“What doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger.” - Nietzsche

After the tragic mass shooting in a LGBTQ+ club in Colorado Springs over the weekend, Nietzsche’s well-known statement takes on tragic proportions. Five were killed, and many more wounded. There will be inevitable traumatic ripples into the wider LGBTQ+ communities, and those who love them.

The goal of trauma recovery will include resilience. Resilience is the ability to bounce back stronger after trauma with the supportive help of community and a vision for the future. That vision, which we have discussed in the last 2 columns, must include less violence and hate toward LGBTQ+ individuals.

Generally, resilience is thought to be a positive characteristic, even a panacea for getting through trauma stronger. Yet, like most good things in life, too much resilience may be problematic at times. Why? How could increased psychological strength be a problem?

Too much resilience can cause individuals to keep plowing through untenable circumstances and be unnecessarily tolerant of adversity. Goals may become unrealistic with undue conscious or unconscious denial.

Whether with LGBTQ+ individuals, burnout, climate instability, racism, or other ongoing social psychiatry problems, we need resilience to develop after trauma, but also to turn that resilience to a vision of reducing the causative factors of the trauma. The causative factors are psychological, our human nature tendency to fear and then scapegoat the other. That makes psychiatry not only important in the treatment of trauma stemming from such events as mass shootings, but in preventing it.

Let’s imagine the ripples of trauma tapering off, then reversing course to flow back to blocking the build-up of such trauma in the first place.

Dr Moffic is an award-winning psychiatrist who has specialized in the cultural and ethical aspects of psychiatry. A prolific writer and speaker, he received the one-time designation of Hero of Public Psychiatry from the Assembly of the American Psychiatric Association in 2002. He is an advocate for mental health issues related to climate instability, burnout, Islamophobia, and anti-Semitism for a better world. He serves on the Editorial Board of Psychiatric Times™.

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