What is resilience? It’s easy enough to define, but it’s not really tangible until you know someone or are emotionally connected to someone who is the definition of resilient. Like, when I type the word ‘banana’ I bet everyone who reads this will think of the image of a banana.
But, when I read the word ‘resilient’ I don’t think people immediately think of something tangible or have a default image unless they have a prime example of someone who is resilient. That’s unfortunate, because resilience is a huge part of mental health and life satisfaction. Let’s do a case study, just so everyone will have a back pocket ‘banana’ image the next time I mention resilience.
According to the scholarly fourm known as Wikipedia, resilience is defined as:
“…the positive capacity of people to cope with stress and adversity.”
So, who is the person you know who has overcome stress and adversity? My answer: Harry James Potter.
Have you ever wondered why Harry Potter was able to finally beat Voldemort?
The answer is not, “He was the Chosen One.”
Ignore the horcruxes, the prophecy, the serendipitous events, and the strange coincidences and just think about it. Harry Potter got the psychological crap kicked out of him time and time again. In basically every book, Harry had to deal with some stuff that would send a lot of kids into intensive psychotherapy or saddle them with a firewhiskey addiction at the ripe old age of 12. Let’s just take a sampling.
The Sorcerer’s Stone: Harry found the Mirror of Erised and managed not to die in front of it staring at his dead parents, he also went into the Foridden Forest and did not get eaten by the slithering Voldemort grossness, he escaped a troll, got on the quidditch team, and had Voldemort smoke/soul FLY THROUGH HIS BODY.
The Chamber of Secrets: Harry deals with people thinking he’s murdering his classmates, he wraps his head around the fact that he can mysteriously speak parseltongue, he HEARS THINGS IN THE WALLS and no one believes him, and he fights a Basilisk and comes in contact with what is the first of many horcruxes.
Prisoner of Azkaban: Harry comes in contact with his first of many dementors and learns how to make a BALLER patronus, he meets his godfather who he hates, then he loves and rescues, then he meets the reason his parents died (Peter Pettigrew = suck), befriends a werewolf and then loses all of his mentors by the year’s end.
Goblet of Fire: Okay, this was a complete mindblow of a year for Harry. Fighting dragons, fights with his best friend who doesn’t believe him, his first trip to the Pensieve, Mad-Eyed Moody but not Mad-Eyed Moody, the death of Cedric Diggory, VOLDEMORT RETURNS. Keep in mind, Harry was going through puberty this whole time, too.
Order of the Phoenix: Dumbledore’s Army is created in response to one of the foulest teachers ever to work at Hogwarts, the ministry freaks out, no one believes Harry YET AGAIN, Harry hears voices and sees Voldemort’s thoughts, SIRIUS DIES, Voldemort possesses Harry, Snape fails to teach Harry Occulemency, shit. gets. real.
Half-Blood Prince: Things get REAL DARK, REAL FAST. Harry gets this book that he almost uses to kill Draco with, Harry sees all this crazy stuff about Tom Riddle/Voldemort in the Pensieve and gets super close to Dumbledore. Then, they see ZOMBIES come out of the water and then DUMBLEDORE DIES, TOO. Snape kills him. Harry tries to kill Snape. Voldemort is basically winning. This book was a major depressive episode in literary fiction.
The Deathly Hallows: Stuff starts falling into place so fast and with 4ish horcruxes to find with no idea how, Harry and Ron fight AGAIN. They spend a long time camping (which would psychologically torture most) and everyone keeps dying. Harry knows he’s the one that has to kill basically the strongest wizard alive and he hasn’t even graduated Hogwarts. He actually had to quit because when you’re saving the wizarding world, you have no time for school (this is where we praise Hermione for being awesome). Then, more people die and Harry learns he has to die, too. Then he doesn’t die, but stuff is still SUPER depressing because that’s a whole lot of PTSD and survivor guilt going on there.
Now, given my many examples it’s obvious how amazing it is that not only did Harry have the drive to keep on living, but that he lived an enriching life for at least 15 years after defeating Voldemort (as far as we know). He had a family, friends, and a career as an Auror fighting more bad dudes. Some people may say, “James and Lily Potter were ballers, Harry just inherited it.”
Resilience is cultivated over years. It takes some serious time and effort. It requires self-awareness and the ability to draw up that voice inside of you that you hear say “I can’t,” and to slap it right in the mouth and say “You will.”
Harry went through so much even before he got accepted into Hogwarts. His parents died and then he was lied to about it, then his relatives hated him and made him live under the stairs and wear their obese son’s clothes, he had no friends and was basically left to raise himself from a small age. No wonder he was so resourceful. Even when he was angsty in books 4-6, he was rather tolerable for a teenager who was having his mind invaded by a sociopathic wizard.
Resilience is the trait in all of us that changes our lives for the better. It’s what grows inside of a person when they decide to quit drinking, when they decide to leave an abusive relationship, when they change years of bad programming from their family system, or when they say “Oh, a dark wizard who wants to kill me, you say? Okay. I guess I’ll manage.”