What is Resilience? (OI Tenet #3)
Resilience is the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties. In the world of positive psychology, resilience is the process of adapting well in the face of adversity, trauma, tragedy, threats or significant sources of stress, such as family and relationship problems, serious health problems, or workplace and financial stressors. Resilience, in that context, means bouncing back from difficult experiences.
OI understands resilience differently.
This blog post is Tenet # 3 of the 10 Tenets of Organic Intelligence, which lays out the clinical and theoretical framework of Organic Intelligence® (OI). In this post we explore the meaning of resilience from the perspective of Organic Intelligence.
OI’s unique contribution to the evolution of therapy is a complete Clinical Protocol, as well as an ethos of social responsibility, which arises organically. In the blog series the 10 Tenets of Organic Intelligence we offer a blueprint for clinical success in therapy that explains what builds resilience. This blueprint is, at the same time then, a call to revision therapy at large.
Resilience beyond the common tools
Resilience is typically defined as how well we face adversity, or how we bounce back after a challenge. When we look at the common lists of advice for becoming more resilient we notice that they are all what OI would call “Phase 2” things to do. For Organic Intelligence, those good Phase 2 resiliency tools are just the beginning — and in some ways merely preparatory. Here at OI, we look at things from a new perspective. Let’s see if the OI perspective makes sense to you, too.
When helping professionals learn to use the OI Clinical Protocol, they learn to see and assess their client’s organismic resiliency. In our courses, we train our students so they have the clearest window to see into their client’s physiology, because resiliency at that level is the actual aim of OI. For OI, resilience is not the voluntary or learned use of good tools. OI clients move beyond that superficial level of resilience, and move to its core.
The core of resilience is the effortlessness of the biology processing intensity. Trauma, and other sources of disorganization of our complex (nervous) system, means that the range of processing is limited. Thus, it takes less intensity to further challenge both learned and biological coping. Two things are really important to think about here.
1) “Ease.” I train OI practitioners in a process that catalyzes automatic and conditioned responses. This creates strength at the biological and physiological level. Our biologies love to learn and grow, but it takes a special language in order for the nervous system to learn to grow its energy processing capacity.
OI practitioners learn to see the “ideal intensity thresholds” which the nervous system is attempting to reach — not too much, not too little is the key! It’s a biological intention to reach those thresholds, similar to a thermostat — reach exactly that threshold, and the system learns how to process a new level of intensity. And by precisely and consistently attaining those intrinsic learning thresholds, the system recalibrates itself in relation to thresholds per se. In other words, the system learns how to learn to reach future and greater thresholds more automatically. In this way we actually catalyze a self-organizational impulse which drives our biology — and this creates natural resilience.
It is a challenge for clients and practitioners alike to acquire this process, in part because it is more biological in orientation, and less psychological or cognitive. People often think they should learn and “do” their threshold tracking and maintenance. This would be like trying to consciously digest food.
The OI model says that what we can do, and the positive effects we can have for our mood and psychological state, creates the opportunity to work with an OI practitioner and gain full benefit from the threshold recalibration of that OI session. Thus, significant preparation is a help, but in the end, the careful threshold shepherding that is necessary gives input to the brainstem, and works at the conditioning level, not primarily via the cognitive channel.
For OI this synergy with an essentially biological impulse of self-coherence is what we call “Phase 3” work (see diagram below). Thus, Phase 2 is learned resilience; Phase 3 is intrinsic resilience — and it’s in the Phase 3 work that the engine of resilience (and spontaneity, instinct, spare capacity, ease, etc) gets fine-tuned.
2) Self-organization wants to happen in the nervous system! The tools for harnessing the natural self-organizational trends have not been consistently available to clinicians prior to Organic Intelligence. In this 10 Tenets of Organic Intelligence blog series I speak about what has derailed such obvious work: our addiction to intensity, trauma-focused therapy, the legacy of cathartic and exposure models, and the inability to see and understand subtle physical signs (including in conversation) of a system moving into greater self-organizing phases.
By the time the OI practitioner learns to work well in the dance of Phase 2 and Phase 3, it is clear that this is a simple facilitation of a naturally occurring process. Eventually, pleasure becomes prominent as both the therapist and client can sit back and enjoy the flow of experience as the biology does its work of growth in capacity.
Resilience: beyond trauma
We are now clearly moving beyond trauma. Once Phase 3 becomes stable, the fractal nature of the body and the psyche emerges (read my previous blog on this topic, Tenet #2). Fractal means self-similar, and OI recognizes self-similar forms of behavior (movement, words, emotion, etc.) that are the actual implicit precursors of later, higher threshold work — what is associated with trauma and explicit content. By the time OI gets to the trauma, much of the threshold work has already been accomplished — and, very safely and relatively easily at the implicit (body) level. This growth via threshold expansion means that a much wider range of intensity can be handled without undue conscious effort to manage or contain the experience, and in that way traumatic material is readily assimilated.
This is trauma therapy, without the trauma, and core resilience is the result.
Curious? I teach these skills in the Human Empowerment And Resiliency Training (HEARTraining®). CE credits are available. If you already have advanced somatic skills (from Sensorimotor Psychotherapy, Somatic Experiencing®, or Hakomi) then the OI Expert Master Class Program — with both live and online tutorials — will help you develop these skills.
Previous posts in this series:
– 10 Tenets of Organic Intelligence
– Working the physiology using trauma, not working the trauma using physiology (Tenet 1, Pt. 1)
– A New Threshold: Trauma Means Unintegrated Resource (Tenet 1, Pt. 2)
– Somatic Self-Similarity: The Fractal Nature of Body & Mind (Tenet #2)