What is the difference between “coping” and “resilience””?
Until the last few days, I explored this as an academic question. Literally. My dissertation is about resilient high-achieving high school girls who are graduates of an extraordinary Boston nonprofit, Beacon Academy.
In my dissertation, I explore how these girls do not simply “cope.” They are resilient. What’s the difference? When we cope, we’re just trying to manage the stressors in our lives. They might be large or small. We might be successful at coping or we might not. But a “resilient” person faces adversity, and then does more than only cope with these pressures or hardships. Resilience involves overcoming those challenges in ways that are far more successful than a typical person. Just being exposed to a risk factor and trying to deal with it is not enough to be resilient. Resilient people excel. They triumph. They learn lessons and apply them to new situations.
The events in my former hometown weigh heavily on mind mind. I’m not ready to be resilient. I don’t want to move on or apply lessons to what’s happening in Boston and Cambridge, my beloved town where I lived until last year when we moved to upstate New York. For my research I spent years figuring out how a bunch of Boston kids moved on from the traumas of their childhood and became exceptional. Right now I think it’s enough to cope. There are some of us — the rescuers, the police officers, the Watertown residents who heard gunshots and explosions last night and must explain that trauma of hiding in the basement to their children — that need to be resilient right now.
But for the rest of us, right now, it’s too much. It’s too shocking. It’s enough just to cope. Get through the day and process this. Lessons, courage, knowledge, defining what resilience means for each of us and as a country… that can all come later.
And here’s what I’m reading from other writers who are just trying to cope:
1. Lindsey Mead: “I Just Want To Live In That World”
2. Boston Mamas: “Day of Dissonance”
3. The Good Men Project: “No One Deserves This To Be Their New Normal”
4. Goody Blog: “We’re On Lockdown and My Daughters Have No Idea”
What’s helping you cope?