New Book: Build your Resilience (Teach Yourself)
This new book by Donald Robertson, the author of The Philosophy of CBT, contains a chapter on Stoic philosophy in relation to resilience-building.
Based on my book for the Teach Yourself series, Build your Resilience(2012).
What is Resilience?
How can you improve your ability to “thrive and survive” in any situation? What disadvantages, stresses, or difficulties do you currently face? What future problems might you need to anticipate and prepare for? What strengths and assets have helped you to cope well with difficult events in the past? What can you learn from the way other people deal with life’s challenges? These are all questions about psychological resilience. Building resilience is a way of improving your ability to cope with adversity or stressful situations in general.
We all need some degree of resilience in order to cope with the problems life throws at us. Indeed, research shows that resilience is normal and involves ordinary skills and resources. Everyone is capable of being resilient and becoming more so by developing appropriate coping strategies. The types of adversity that demand resilience can range from ordinary “daily hassles” to major setbacks, stressful life events such as divorce, redundancy, bankruptcy, illness, or bereavement, and perhaps even more severe trauma in some cases. Most people believe that they are at least moderately resilient. However, few people are as resilient as they could be in all areas of life, and there are always more aspects of resilience that can be developed.
So how is resilience built? The American Psychological Association (APA) has published its own research-based public information leaflet entitled The Road to Resilience, developed by a team of six psychologists working in this area. Their ten recommendations for developing and maintaining resilience can be paraphrased as follows:
- Maintain good relationships with family, friends, and others
- Avoid seeing situations as insurmountable problems and look for ways forward where possible
- Accept certain circumstances as being outside of your control, where necessary
- Set realistic goals, in small steps if necessary, and plan to work regularly on things that are achievable
- Take decisive action to improve your situation rather than simply avoiding problems
- Look for opportunities for personal growth by trying to find positive or constructive meaning in events
- Nurture a positive view of yourself and develop confidence in your ability to solve problems
- Keep things in perspective by looking at them in a balanced way and focusing on the bigger picture
- Maintain a hopeful and optimistic outlook, focusing on concrete goals, rather than worrying about possible future catastrophes
- Take care of yourself, paying attention to your own needs and feelings and looking after your body by taking healthy physical exercise and regularly engaging in enjoyable, relaxing and healthy activities, perhaps including practices such as meditation
Books like Build your Resiliencecan help you learn specific techniques and strategies to develop these attitudes and skills, and learn other resilient ways of thinking and acting.
The Penn Resilience Program (PRP)
The Penn Resiliency Program (PRP) is perhaps the best example of an established resilience-building approach. It was developed initially as a means of preventing depression over the long-term with schoolchildren, based on Martin Seligman’s earlier work on “learned optimism” and adapting the techniques of standard cognitive therapy to serve a preventative rather than remedialfunction. It has been supported by compelling evidence showing its effectiveness as preventative treatment for depression and also, in some studies, for anxiety. For example, up to two years after undergoing classes in resilience-building, children considered at risk of depression were found to be about half as likely to have actually developed it as their peers in “control” groups, who did not receive any resilience training (Reivich & Shatté, 2002, p. 11). In schoolchildren, for whom this approach was originally designed, research found that “conduct problems”, their behaviour, also improved as a result.
The version of the Penn Resiliency Program (PRP) described by Reivich and Shatté (2002) consists of “seven key skills”:
- Monitoring your thoughts: Learning to catch your unhelpful thoughts as they occur and to understand how they influence your feelings and actions
- Spotting “thinking errors”: Spotting common errors (or “thinking traps”) among your thoughts such as excessive self-blame or jumping to conclusions, etc.
- Identifying unhelpful beliefs: Identifying unhelpful underlying (“core” or “iceberg”) beliefs and evaluating them
- Challenging unhelpful beliefs: This includes problem-solving as well as learning to dispute faulty “Why?” beliefs, or rumination, about the causation of problems that can get in the way of solving them
- Challenging catastrophic worries: Dealing specifically with “What if?” thinking, or unrealistic worry, by challenging catastrophic beliefs about consequences of problems and focusing instead on the most likely outcomes (“decatastrophising” or “putting things in perspective”)
- Rapid calming and focusing strategies: Coping skills for use in real-world situations, consisting of a simplified form of Applied Relaxation (Reivich & Shatté, 2002, pp. 192-196) and coping imagery used to “calm” stressful emotions and distraction (“focusing”) techniques to quickly manage intrusive thoughts, worry, and rumination
- “Real-time resilience”: This involves using a much-abbreviated version of the disputation skills (4 and 5) above to challenge unhelpful thoughts more quickly and replace them with resilient ones in specific situations by completing the “tag lines” or self-statements: “A more accurate way of seeing this is…”, “That’s not true because…”, and “A more likely outcome is… and I can… to deal with it.” (Reivich & Shatté, 2002, pp. 206-210)
New Book: Build your Resilience
Due for publication by Hodder in May 2012, as part of the popular Teach Yourself series of self-help books.
Resilience: How to Thrive and Survive in Any Situationhelps you to prepare for adversity by finding healthier ways of responding to stressful thoughts and feelings. You will learn a comprehensive toolkit of effective therapeutic strategies and techniques, drawing upon innovative “mindfulness and acceptance-based” approaches to cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT), combined with elements of established psychological approaches to stress prevention and management. The book also draws upon classical Stoic philosophy to provide a wider context for resilience-building.
This book is a complete course in resilience training, covering everything from building long-term resilience by developing psychological flexibility, mindfulness and valued action, through specific behavioural skills such as applied relaxation, worry postponement, problem-solving, and assertiveness. Each chapter contains a self-assessment test, case study, practical exercises and reminder boxes and concludes with a reminder of the key points of the chapter (Focus Points) and a round-up of what to expect in the next (Next Step), which will whet your appetite for what’s coming and how it relates to what you’ve just read.
The author, Donald Robertson is a psychotherapist with a private practice in Harley Street. He is a CBT practitioner specialising in treating anxiety and building resilience and director of a leading therapy training organisation. He is the author of many journal articles and three books on therapy, The Philosophy of CBT, The Discovery of Hypnosis, and The Practice of Cognitive-Behavioural Hypnotherapy, and blogs regularly from his website www.londoncognitive.com.
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