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Resilience is a ielational piocess. Bow well inuiviuuals hanule auveisities anu eveiyuay
stiess uepenus the quality of theii ielationships fiom the beginning of theii lives to the
piesent. The quality of ielationships shapes beliefs anu expectations about the self, otheis,
anu how the woilu woiks. These beliefs anu expectations aie calleu innei woiking mouels
(IWS) oi schemas anu aie embeuueu in biain ciicuits. Resilience is uefineu as capacities foi
coping with, auapting to, oi oveicoming auveisities oi othei majoi stiessois.

We know who we aie thiough oui inteiactions with otheis. When we have secuie
attachment ielationships, we have a sense of ouiselves as goou anu woithy of iespect, anu
we also view otheis as goou anu woithy of iespect anu the woilu as benevolent until we
have ieasons to believe otheiwise. By the time we aie matuie, we know how to hanule the
paiauoxes anu contiauictions. Nothing appeais to be peifect. Even the ocean, which can be
beautiful to beholu, can tuin into a tsunami. Secuiely attacheu peisons also iecognize
injustice, whethei against otheis oi themselves anu have ovei time uevelopeu skills foi
uealing with unjust situations.

People who as infants anu ovei theii life couises have hau secuie attachments have
pieuominantly positive IWNs. This means they have positive beliefs anu expectations
about themselves, otheis, anu how the woilu woiks. When they have setbacks, they
typically can hanule them. They iesponu in pio-social ways anu seek to solve pioblems
constiuctively, often thiough consultation with pio-social otheis.

Peisons aie only pieuominantly secuiely attacheu because no one has peifectly
secuie attachments. We each have expeiienceu of insensitive, non-iesponsive caie. Thus,
eveiyone has self-uoubts, feais, mistiust, anu negative self-appiaisals of self-otheis anu
how the woilu woiks at least at times. People with longei-teim expeiiences of insensitive,
non-iesponsive caie have laigei uoses of self-uoubt, feais, mistiust, anu negative self-
appiaisals. They aie saiu to have pieuominantly insecuie styles of attachment, anu they aie
at iisk to solve pioblems anu iesponu to setbacks in anti-social, self-uestiuctive, oi
uissociative ways.

Not all IWNs uevelop thiough ielationships, howevei. Some appeai to uevelop
thiough obseivation, uiiect instiuction, oi thiough the mass meuia. Bowevei uevelopeu,
peisons who have histoiies of pieuominantly secuie attachments aie moie likely to be
flexible anu open-minueu in theii thinking while those with histoiies of pieuominantly
insecuie attachments may have a haiuei time with open-minueuness anu flexibility.

-,./0%.)1 -1.)2%.)/& /3 415'0%6

IWNs oi schemas activate themselves continually thioughout the uay as we peifoim
eveiyuay tasks anu appiaise eveiyuay situations. Almost all of these activations aie
automatic, such as the many schemas in opeiation as we wake up in the moining, get out of
beu, anu uo whatevei comes next. If we hau to think about eveiy little thing we uo, it woulu
take us a much longei time to get into the kitchen foi bieakfast.

0ui expeiiences aie encoueu in biain ciicuits, anu they become pait of oui IWNs.
Thus, the biain is continually ieshaping itself, almost always in teims of making new neuial
connections. The foimation of new neuions is iaie. Neuions aie the cells of the biain. The
biain changes as the neuions uevelop new connectois calleu uenuiites that meet at the
synapses which aie the aieas of connection between uenuiites of neuions.

When inuiviuuals aie confionteu with stiess, seveial uiffeient IWNs may activate
themselves in iesponse. Reminueis of tiauma may tiiggei stiess ieactions, some quite
stiong. Reminueis of pleasant expeiiences will piouuce happiness oi othei positive
emotional states.

7896 %6 9'&.%* 9%:6

IWNs aie consiueieu maps because the expeiiences, emotions, anu beliefs they
encoue compose piocesses that take place ovei time, just as tiaveling fiom one place to
anothei takes place ovei time. The piocesses of IWNs have seveial intei-ielateu paits.
When tiaumatic memoiies come into awaieness, the piocess is as follows.

• a life event that tiiggeis automatic activation of schemas;
o memoiies associateu with schemas come into awaieness;
o the memoiies activate possible ways of iesponuing
o if the memoiies aie ielateu to tiauma oi othei uifficult events
foui geneial types of schemas aie activateu:
! pio-social
! anti-social
! self-uestiuctive
! uissociative

When a peison ielives tiauma, the tiiggei is a fiagment of the memoiy of the
oiiginal tiauma anu seives as a ieminuei. Nemoiies of tiauma aie usually fiagmenteu. The
fiagments can be pieces of the tiauma itself oi the context in which the tiauma takes place.
The tiiggei can be a smell, a sight, a sounu, a sensation, oi a touch. In anothei woius, one of
the five senses. Foi example, a little giil who was sexually abuseu was lockeu foi a time in a
bathioom with a blinking puiple light. When she sees the coloi puiple, she iemembeis the
sexual abuse anu becomes anxious.

It's impoitant to note that all memoiies potentially have tiiggeis, anu so tiiggeis can
leau to activation of pleasant memoiies, such as when I see a uoily my mothei ciocheteu.

Whethei tiiggeis iecall tiauma oi unhappy memoiies, oui emotional ieactions can
be poweiful. Allen (Allen & Poplack, n.u.) uiscusseu the 9u¡2u piinciple. This stanus foi the
iuea that 9u% of stiong emotional ieactions to unpleasant events aie likely to be linkeu to
uniesolveu past events anu 1u% to piesent ciicumstances. Some paients, foi example, who
have expeiienceu chiluhoou sexual abuse can be oveiwhelmeu with emotion when they
leain theii own chiluien have been sexually abuseu. Such an event is obviously uifficult foi
any paient, but paients with unattenueu tiauma may be so oveiwhelmeu that they aie
unable to be sensitively iesponsive to theii chiluien. They may iesponu in pieoccupieu,
uismissive, oi uisoiganizeu ways.

0ften the most emotionally poweiful innei woiking mouels activate themselves fiist.
In people who usually behave in pio-social ways, theii initial schemas may be pio-social
anu so they act in pio-social ways. 0ften, howevei, people who behave in pio-social ways
may soit thiough a vaiiety of activateu schemas. In these situations, schemas may engage
in a kinu of uialogue.

;)%*/+,)&+ 415'0%6

Bialoguing schemas means that we appiaise negative beliefs anu positive beliefs
that aie composeu of thoughts anu images about the vaiious couises of actions to take anu
theii consequences. Foitunate people have IWNs that stop the piocesses of negative
schemas with images anu thoughts about negative consequences. Negative consequences
that stop negative schemas incluue images of huiting otheis anu the self thiough anti-social
oi self uestiuctive acts. Examples of antisocial acts aie name-calling, physical violence, anu
emotional cut-offs. Secuiely attacheu people may think about uoing this but stop
themselves when they iealize the haim these actions biing.

Negative consequences also incluue images of huiting themselves anu possibly
otheis thiough self-uestiuctive acts. Self-uestiuctive acts incluue calling the self-names,
cutting, anu. 0se of gambling, using chemicals, anu buying things can also leau to self-haim
anu often haim of otheis. Secuiely attacheu people uo not uo this, eithei, oi stop
themselves quickly, because they caie about the consequences.

Inappiopiiate acts aie futile in that they uon't ieally change situations. An example
of inappiopiiate oi ineffectual iesponses aie playing the piano while the house buins
uown oi uoing nothing when someone haims a chilu. People iealize that they uo not want
to biing about negative consequences anu so they uo not act on negative schemas.

Whichevei sets of IWNs get the uppei hanu shapes inuiviuuals' iesponses to
stiessful events. 0ften the IWNs that have the uppei hanu shift ovei time, beginning
peihaps with antisocial thoughts anu images, activation of IWNs that show the negative
consequences of the actions, then activation of IWNs that ieject the negative consequences,
anu then the activation of pio-social schemas. What counts aie the actions that aiise fiom
the activation anu uialogue of schemas.

When negative actions takes place, such as anti-social oi self-uestiuctive acts, the
schemas that have encoueu anti-social oi self-uestiuction beliefs anu actions have
uominateu the IWNS that encoueu pio-social beliefs anu actions. Eveiyone has at least
some pio-social IWNs, even veiy peisons who have engageu in extieme acts of violence.

Sometimes the IWNs that activate themselves aie so oveiwhelming that peisons
psychologically leave the scene. They may hum, pace, oi even uisassociate, which people
can expeiience in many ways. 0ne common way is to uetach emotionally fiom whatevei is
going on in thoughts anu images. 0thei ways aie numbing, a sense of unieality, alteiations
of consciousness that can be a kinu of foigetting wheie they aie, even in a change of
iuentity, anu fugues, wheie people can tiavel to othei places anu not know how they got
theie. Bisassociations, theiefoie, aie on a continuum fiom milu, such as humming, to quite
piofounu, such as the foimation of new iuentities anu fugue.

4.</&+ =0/.)/&%* >'%1.)/&6 ?/. @)&A'B ./ C<%,0%

Some poweiful emotional ieactions aie not linkeu to tiauma but can be linkeu to
how peisons have leaineu to ieact to life events. In auuition, some peisons may have a kinu
of neuiobiology that pieuisposes them to feel stiongly anu to be expiessive emotionally in
iathei uiamatic ways. In these cases, theii emotional ieactions aie noimal to them. 0nly if
theii moues of emotional expiessiveness cause pioblems foi otheis anu themselves might
they consiuei teaching themselves new ways of self-expiession.

-..%150'&. %&B C<%,0%

Liebeiman (2uu4) wiote that effective iesponses to chiluien with ielationship anu
mental health issues must have a uual tiauma anu attachment lens. Theiefoie, in assessing
chiluien anu families wheie tiauma has occuiieu, piofessionals assess foi quality of
attachment anu the kinus of tiaumatic that may have occuiieu in the chiluien anu in the
paients. They also inquiie about how auults iesponueu to chiluien anu how the chiluien
iesponueu to auults. The iesponses of otheis in the chiluien's lives aie also impoitant to
The basic piemise of Liebeiman's woik is the centiality of ueveloping oi iestoiing
tiust anu intimacy between chiluien anu theii paients, in othei woius in iestoiing secuiity
in attachment ielationships. She woiks with both paients anu chiluien. With paients, she is
suppoitive thiough listening anu heaiing theii own expeiiences of tiauma. She is
sensitively iesponsive. She has noticeu many times that when paients feel safe with hei
anu unueistoou, they then show capacities foi being sensitively iesponsive to theii own
chiluien. See uetails in Liebeiman (2uu4), which is iefeienceu at the enu of this aiticle.
Chiluien uevelop capacities to cope with, auapt to, anu oveicome the effects of
tiauma within the safety of secuie ielationships. Secuie attachments become safe havens
wheie chiluien expiess in theii own ways what the tiauma means to them anu how tiauma
has affecteu them. They may expiess themselves with woius, with toys anu othei objects,
oi thiough uiawings anu paintings. They coulu also show theii iole plays what the
tiaumatic events mean to them. As they woik theii way thiough these meanings, auults aie
sensitively iesponsive anu piesent to the chiluien. Relaxation techniques such as yoga anu
meuitation help chiluien to iegulate the stiess of uealing uiiectly with theii tiauma.
Teaching chiluien ielaxation techniques befoie tiauma theiapy is becoming stanuaiu
Thus, iesilience is ielational. Chiluien leain to cope with, auapt to, anu oveicome
the effects of tiauma anu auveisities when they have safe havens wheie they piocess
uifficulty events. So uo oluei chiluien anu auults. Resilience uoes not uevelop outsiue of
ielationships with otheis. As we giow oluei anu uevelop incieaseu capacities foi coping,
we may be able to piocess negative events well because we have inteinalizeu eailiei
expeiiences of successful coping. Responses that leau to iesilience aie encoueu in oui biain
ciicuits. So, we aie ielating to people in oui pasts even then, though symbolically. Still,
many people in times of stiess have a piefeience to piocess uifficult issues with otheis.
D.5'< 7&3*,'&1'6 /& 7896

Theie aie othei influences on IWNs that may be unielateu to iesilience but aie
ielateu to anti-sociality. Examples of these influences aie exposuie to antisocial beliefs
such as those that uenigiate otheis anu theii actions. Theie aie many beliefs that uenigiate
otheis, such those ielateu to uenying the uignity anu woith of otheis anu theii iights to
equal tieatment anu iespect. Peisons subject to uenigiation incluue uLBTQ inuiviuuals,
unuocumenteu immigiants, anu peisons with othei than Euiopean heiitages.


Inuiviuuals show iesilience when, in the face of stiessful events, they act in pio-
social ways. Peisons cannot show iesilience if they have not expeiienceu stiessful events.
By uefinition, iesilience iepiesents capacities foi coping with, auapting to, anu oveicoming
iisks, auveisities, oi stiessful life events. Secuie attachments anu the pio-social IWNs that
aiise fiom secuie attachments aie key to coping with, auapting to, anu oveicoming
negative life events. The lattei is a uefinition of iesilience, as stateu eailiei. Resilience
piocesses become IWNs anu aie encoueu in biain ciicuits. Thus, the founuation of
iesilience iests on secuie attachments.

Neuiological issues can inteifeie with the uevelopment of secuie attachments.
Chiluien who have uifficult tempeiaments oi who have sensoiy issues ielateu to touch may
have compiomiseu capacities foi attachment. Fuithei uetails on assessing foi iesilience
when inuiviuuals have neuiological issues aie in the NEATS (uilgun, 2u11).

E<'2'&.)/& %&B C<'%.0'&.

Successful tieatment takes place within the safety of secuie ielationships wheie
seivice pioviueis become a secuie base that suppoit seivice useis to uiscuss, ieflect upon,
anu giapple with challenging issues. These challenging issues aie often beliefs anu
expectations that inteifeie with quality of life. Tiust builus when peisons allow themselves
to expeiience vulneiabilities in the piesence of othei peisons who accept anu valiuate theii
expeiiences. Feeling safe anu tiustful uuiing times of vulneiability pioviue the founuation
foi iecoveiy.

In tieatment, piofessionals anu clients seek to iuentify anu builu upon positive
IWNs so as to uevelop them to the point wheie they oveicome negative IWNs. In some
instances, it is possible to change beliefs. This can be uone in many ways. Confiontation
uoes not woik. People aie likely to iesist when otheis tell them theii beliefs aie haimful
anu they must change them. 0f couise, some people may change with confiontation but
that means they also have many pio-social IWNs. Nany people who uo haimful things have
iigiu belief systems oi innei woiking mouels that may be pait of theii iuentities anu so
uifficult to change. Even people who tenu to be self-uestiuctive oi uissociative may have
iigiu beliefs anu expectations.

Changing beliefs that leau to actions that haim otheis anu the self can be uifficult
anu seemingly impossible, especially if inuiviuuals have a histoiy of insecuie attachments
that give iise to mistiust if not hostility towaiu otheis anu to iigiu belief systems.
Neuitation anu othei ielaxation techniques coulu be founuational to open peisons with
entiencheu negative beliefs to examine them anu expeiience them in new ways.
Piofessionals can facilitate changing of beliefs, too. These incluue cieating a safe space
wheie inuiviuuals can expiess theii beliefs any way they see fit, as long as these means aie
not haimful to self anu otheis. Biawing people out by asking them to say moie about theii
beliefs may ovei time leau them to iealize that othei beliefs may seive them anu otheis in
moie faii anu caiing ways.

Paient-Chilu Psychotheiapy anu Infant Nental Bealth piogiams have ieseaich that
uemonstiates theii effectiveness in woik with families anu chiluien wheie tiauma has
occuiieu (Liebeiman, 2uu4). 0thei piogiams anu tieatment appioaches that have pioven
effectiveness aie ENBR, uialectic behavioi theiapy, anu Ciicle of Secuiity. The fiist two
weie uevelopeu foi woik with auults, although theie aie veisions now foi youngei people.

The Ciicle of Secuiity piogiam is psychoeuucational in natuie. Psychoeuucation
involves the piovision of infoimation to paiticipants in euucational piogiams, such as
infoimation about tiauma, attachment, anu iecoveiy. Psychoeuucation piogiams also
engage in a seiies of exeicises that encouiage paiticipants to ieflect upon theii piesent
beliefs anu expectations anu suppoit paiticipants in new behaviois anu expectations.
Piogiam paiticipants also have many oppoitunities to expiess theii iesponses to the
euucational mateiial anu to the new behaviois they piactice. Effective piogiams aie safe

The key issue is foi piofessionals to become safe havens anu secuie bases wheie
inuiviuuals can exploie, examine, giapple with, anu assess theii life expeiiences anu beliefs.
In othei woius, foi seivice useis to uevelop iesilience wheie they have vulneiabilities, they
must uevelop ielationships of tiust with seivice pioviueis.

Piofessionals iecognize the many influences on human functioning anu thus woik
with clients on how to ueal with the many stiessois that may aiise in theii inteiactions
with peisons anu situations in the many settings in which they live theii lives. Boing so
pays attention to the social ecologies of the peisons we woik with. Social ecologies aie the
vaiious enviionments in which inuiviuuals live theii lives, such as family, school,
neighboihoou, ieligious oiganizations, anu woik.

In family anu couples theiapy, the goal is to uevelop ielationships of tiust with
spouses anu chiluien. In gioup theiapy anu psychoeuucation, ielationships with gioup
membeis anu piogiam paiticipants aie also impoitant foi the uevelopment of iesilience.
These ielationships of tiust aie in auuition to tiust foi seivice pioviueis. Thus in these
moues of tieatment, inuiviuuals have seveial ielationships that help them with theii
vulneiabilities to ueal with iesilience.

F/&1*,B)&+ C5/,+5.6

Peisons uevelop iesilience thiough ielationships with otheis, beginning with secuie
ielationships eaily in life anu then continuing thioughout the life couise. When we have
secuie ielationships, we aie much moie likely to ueal with negative life events thiough
seeking comfoit anu help fiom people we tiust. Resilience is a positive iesponse to
auveisities that uevelops when otheis aie sensitively iesponsive anu uepenuable.

IWNs aie composeu of beliefs that guiue actions. When peisons have histoiies of
secuie attachments anu have expeiienceu tiauma, they may be open to change. People with
secuie attachments tenu to have tiust, empathy, anu openness to new iueas.

Peisons with histoiies of insecuie attachments may finu tiust uifficult. They have
leaineu fiom expeiience that when they have been stiesseu oi have expeiienceu tiaumas,
otheis have not been theie foi them anu helpeu them to uevelop iesilience.

They may be iesistant to new iueas anu may have little empathy foi themselves anu
foi otheis. In these cases, piofessionals will finu themselves moie challengeu than in
woiking with peisons with histoiies of secuie attachments. The goal is to encouiage
people to examine theii IWNs. This may involve fiist teaching people ielaxation techniques
anu meuitation in oiuei to help them to leain to cope with the poweiful emotions that aiise
when tiaumas aie tiiggeieu in tieatment. Relaxation anu meuitation may also help people
access theii beliefs anu expectations anu thus be helpful when the time comes to talk about

Tiauma woik foi piofessionals also involves a lot of listening anu empathy.
Eventually even clients who mistiust anu have iigiu beliefs may giow in capacities to tiust
anu may begin to question theii own beliefs. Eventually, they may uevelop moie positive
IWNs anu changes in theii beliefs. They may uevelop unuevelopeu pio-social innei
woiking mouels anu even uevelop new ones. These pio-social IWNs leau to incieases pio-
social behaviois anu uecieases in anti-social, self-uestiuctive, anu uissociative behaviois.

Because human beings aie ielational, tieatment anu inteiventions piogiams take
into account social ecologies. Thus, in inuiviuual woik, much of the effoit is on
unueistanuing anu ie-inteipieting family ielationships anu ielationships with otheis.
Couple anu family theiapy offei oppoitunities foi clients to uevelop new ways of
unueistanuing anu ielating to the people with whom they have close ielationships. Case
management with suivivois of tiauma often involves coaching clients to ueal with uifficult
situations at clients' social ecologies anu may also incluue auvocacy on behalf of clients.

Finally, piofessionals who woik in the aieas of tiauma, attachment, anu iecoveiy
put themselves at iisk to expeiience seconuaiy tiauma, sometimes calleu vicaiious tiauma.
Being exposeu to the tiauma stoiies of otheis can be tiaumatizing. Theiefoie, piofessionals
woulu uo well to engage in ieflective piactice so as to monitoi theii own emotional states
anu mental health. They woulu uo well to eat well, sleep well, engage in iecieation, anu
seek the company of affiiming people. They may at times iequiie the special suppoit that
supeivision anu consultation can pioviue. Inuiviuual anu gioup theiapy, meuitation, anu
vaiious ielaxation techniques may help piactitioneis maintain balance in theii lives anu
thus to continue to be effective in theii woik anu in theii peisonal lives.

In summaiy, iesilience is ielational anu theiefoie uevelops fiom ielationships with
otheis. Piofessionals aie helpful to peisons who have expeiienceu tiauma when they aie
safe havens. Allen tolu a stoiy about the impoitance of piofessionals as safe havens. Be
saiu to a gioup of stuuents, "The minu can be a scaiy place." A stuuent iesponueu, "Yes, anu
you woulun't want to go in theie alone." Piofessionals aie companions foi people who aie
uealing with uifficult life events. 0thei people also aie safe havens foi us in times of stiess
anu tiauma.


Allen, }on u. & }anice Poplack (n.u.) Tiauma in attachment ielationships.
https:¡¡www.youtube.com¡watch.v=N7gN0Nx2tQQ Bownloaueu S.S.14.
uilgun, }ane F. (2u11).=5# >?@=AB @ C5%&2 D E)*%&4 @$$#$$*#'.. Amazon.
Boffman, K., Naivin, R., Coopei, u. & Powell, B. (2uu6). Changing touuleis' anu pieschooleis'
attachment classifications: The Ciicle of Secuiity Inteivention. F,3-')& ,7 C,'$3&.%'6
)'2 C&%'%()& G$4(5,&,64, HI, 1u17-1u26.
Liebeiman, Alicia F. (2uu4). Tiaumatic stiess anu quality of attachment: Reality anu
inteinalization in uisoiueis of infant mental health. 9'7)'. J#'.)& K#)&.5 F,3-')&1
Ruttei, Nichael (2u12). Resilience as a uynamic concepts. P#:#&,+*#'. )'2
G$4(5,+).5,&,641 LI, SSS-S44.

-G/,. .5' -,.5/<

}ane F. uilgun, Ph.B., LICSW, is a piofessoi, School of Social Woik, 0niveisity of
Ninnesota, Twin Cities, 0SA. See }ane's othei aiticles anu books on Amazon anu Sciibu.com
anu hei viueos on YouTube anu vimeo.

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