The DNA double helix, an innately resilient structure
The first use of resilience in English that I can find is from 1668. The neo-Platonist priest Henry More writes of how dealing with “squalid and forlorn conditions” might yet result in “strong and peremptory Resiliency from this sordid Region of Misery and Sin.”
Resilience is derived from the Latin resilire — re plus salire — meaning to leap back, recoil, spring and spring again, re-flow, et cetera.
In solid mechanics resilience is an expression of how a material responds to stress (load applied) and exhibits strain (deformation of the material).
Solids are principally ductile or brittle. Ductile materials, including steel, have qualities of elastic deformation. More simply, they bend. Brittle materials do not bend. A highly resilient — or elastic — material can bend under stress and return to its original condition once the stress is removed.
At the molecular level physical resilience is the outcome of extension (stretching) usually in combination with unfolding and refolding (technically referred to as “reversible unfolding”). Generally speaking, the less tightly bound its molecular structure the more elasticity a substance exhibits.
A mighty oak stands strong before the sky. A willow yields to the slightest breeze. Yet in the fiercest storm, an oak does break while a willow but bends. Which then is stronger in the end?
Resilience is increasingly recognized as a key aspect of psychological health. Here, too, resilience relates to how much stress can be experienced while returning to something similar — or even superior — to the prior state of health, capacity, and function.
Drawing on the work of other scholars, Suniya Luthar, Dante Cicchetti, and Bronwyn Becker have argued, “Resilience refers to a dynamic process encompassing positive adaptation within the context of significant adversity. Implicit within this notion are two critical conditions: (1) exposure to significant threat or severe adversity; and (2) the achievement of positive adaptation despite major assaults on the developmental process.” This definition is especially helpful in highlighting a need to differentiate adverse experiences.
The Mayo Clinic suggests that greater individual resilience can be cultivated by several behaviors. Four of the Mayo recommndations that stand out in a wide range of scientific studies of resilience are:
- Accept and anticipate change. Be flexible. Try not to be so rigid that even minor changes upset you or that you become anxious in the face of uncertainty. Expecting changes to occur makes it easier to adapt to them, tolerate them and even welcome them.
- Get connected. Build strong, positive relationships with family and friends, who can listen to your concerns and offer support. Volunteer or get involved in your community.
- Remain hopeful and optimistic. While you can’t change events, look toward the future, even if it’s just a glimmer of how things might improve. Find something in each day that signals a change for the better. Expect good results.
- Work toward goals. Do something every day that gives you a sense of accomplishment. Even small, everyday goals are important. Having goals helps direct you toward the future.
Men are born soft and supple; dead, they are stiff and hard. Plants are born tender and pliant; dead, they are brittle and dry. Thus whoever is stiff and inflexible is a disciple of death. Whoever is soft and yielding is a disciple of life. The hard and stiff will be broken. The soft and supple will prevail. (Tao te Ching)
Homeland Security Presidential Directive 21, focused on public health and medical preparedness, calls for the cultivation of community resilience. Some — including yours truly — have advocated resilience as a fundamental strategy of homeland security, extending from individual readiness to the design of physical and virtual infrastructure.
A 2007 study by the Israeli Trauma Center for the Victims of War and Terror found that societal resilience can be predicted when groups of individuals widely share, “a feeling of personal security, social support and optimism…”
In a Dartmouth Medical School study the authors found, “Community resilience emerges from four primary sets of adaptive capacities–Economic Development, Social Capital, Information and Communication, and Community Competence–that together provide a strategy for disaster readiness. To build collective resilience, communities must reduce risk and resource inequities, engage local people in mitigation, create organizational linkages, boost and protect social supports, and plan for not having a plan, which requires flexibility, decision-making skills, and trusted sources of information that function in the face of unknowns.”
Sounds about right to me.
Yesterday Dr Marie-Paule Kieny, Director, Initiative for Vaccine Research with the World Health Organization, said, “Vaccines will be available starting from September or October. If the situation remains as it is, of course the regulatory authorities will certainly want to have a better handle at the safety in clinical trials and doses in clinical trials and these clinical trials will take some time, and therefore, to have a full license of this new vaccine may take until the end of the year. This being said, many countries have provision in their law, so if there is an emergency they can invoke an emergency situation to use vaccine for which you would have already good characterization in terms of pharmaceutical data but not yet, all the data on clinical trials.” What this suggests is a predictable need for systemic resilience… by individuals, pharmaceutical companies, regulatory agencies, the health care sector, and more.
Transcript of July 13 WHO media briefing (full of great information).