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Susan Spencer of 48 Hours did a special story for CBS Morning News called The Science of Resilience (10/20/13).  The program was so fascinating, I had to follow up on the story.

I was intrigued with the story of Michelle Glenn who in 2002 was snorkeling on French Cay in Turks & Caicos when a seven foot shark got too close and attacked Glynn.  Before Glynn can even catch her breath the shark’s jaws are around the upper right side of her body jerking her violently like a rag doll in the water.  The shark had ripped 64 square inches from her upper back, half her armpit, her entire triceps and most of her biceps.  Glynn almost lost her arm but doctors saved it.  Today her right hand remains paralyzed.

Six surgeries and a few weeks later she was back at work on her farm taking care of her horses.  She couldn’t use her right hand and she admitted to having nightmares but she was determined to keep on doing the normal things in her life including diving with the sharks.  She considers herself to be a RESILIENT person.

There is within all of us an ability to bounce back from pain, hurt, disappointment, disaster, crisis or whatever you want to call it. Psychiatrist Dennis Charney, now dean of Mt. Sinai medical school in New York City, studied post traumatic syndrome in soldiers and how resilient they were especially as POW’s.  Here are a couple of revelations from his study:

  1. When there are monumental disasters such as 9/11 or hurricanes, people are most likely to get through it by having strong social support and a strong community.  If this doesn’t exist survivors will create their own.
  2. People who bounce back have an unshakable optimism.  In Dr. Charney’s study POW’s were convinced they would make it if they just held on to one another.  There only form of communication was a tapping code done on prison walls.

Another remarkable study, done at Columbia University’s Teacher’s College, says that people are more resilient than you think.  The study found that more than half the people interviewed in hospitals showed no signs of depression, anxiety or giving up.  Another study done at trauma centers showed that over 60 percent of people remain calm and have great hope.

When Glynn was asked, “How did you bounce back?” she responded, “I just stumbled upon ‘positivity’—that was a big part of it.”

She was also asked, “If you could magically erase this thing from your whole life would you do it.”  Her answer:  “No, because I have learned so much through it.  I learned that you are who you are on the inside and it doesn’t matter how scarred you are on the outside.  These are life’s lessons that most people don’t get to learn.”

So what is your problem or the crisis you are experiencing or one day will experience?  Whatever it is or will be this is what I know.  You will make it.  You can and will bounce back.  I didn’t say it would be easy.  I’m just saying there is more resilience inside of you than you realize.  You, too, can “stumble upon positivity.” Reach down deep and seize it today!

(Dr. Jay Horton is a professional speaker and author of the book Life is Hard but God is Good, 12 Principles for Unlocking Your Potential. )


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