Rephrasing Resilience: From ‘bouncing back’ to ‘bouncing forward’

The second day of the Positive Psychology Symposium, 2016, organized by the Department of Psychology, Lady Shri Ram College for Women, began with a panel discussion on one of the major constructs of positive psychology-resilience.

The discussion was facilitated by the Head of the Department of Psychology, Dr. Priti Dhawan who began the session by defining resilience as the ability to ‘bounce back’ from the adversities of life. However, the session went beyond the theoretical and academic understanding of the construct as the two panelists, Dr. Priya Bir and Mr. Gautam Yadav, shared a significant part of their respective life stories, talking about the adversities they faced and the way they coped with such circumstances.

Dr. Bir  is currently an Associate Professor in the Department of Psychology, Aditi College, University of Delhi. She is a practicing counselor and is an eminent researcher, especially in the field of Positive Psychology. Dr. Bir commenced the discussion by mentioning how ‘resilience is a process and not a trait’ and recounted her journey of how she employed resilience to fight off the hard situations that life presented her with in the form of the challenge of setting up the department of Psychology at Aditi College in the year 1996. Dr. Bir talked about how she overcame the initial internal struggles of doubting her own abilities, took up the challenge of starting a department with a class of 6 students consisting of young married women. She was even assigned the work of going into the adjacent villages, requesting the parents to send their daughters to study further which wasn’t an easy task to accomplish twenty years ago. She succeeded in enrolling twenty-one girls from the rural areas, of which three are presently teaching in Delhi University. She concluded by saying how life doesn’t become easier but it’s us who become stronger and we need to realize that in the times of difficulties, playing the ‘victim’ may seem the easy way out but there comes a point when we need to stop doing so and start facing life head on.

The second panelist, Mr. Gautam Yadav took forward the discussion sharing bits and pieces of the journey his life has been. He’s a twenty five year old LGBT activist and works in the area of AIDS awareness across the globe. From dealing with his internal conflicts related to his sexuality that surfaced as early as in 4th standard, to being bullied in a bus filled with fellow schoolmates, Mr. Yadav held nothing back in sharing the intimate intricacies of his life. He shared with audience how he came out twice to his family and to the world- once about his sexuality, then about his HIV status. He retrospectively talks about how his own personal strengths, his resilience, made up for the lack of social support he had while he was going through certain dark phases of his life. He openly talked about his fight with depression and his fight against the negativities which he believes have brought him to where he is now. Today Mr. Yadav is an active member of many organizations across the globe and recently represented India in a Youth Advisory Panel organized by the United Nations Aids Advisory Forum. He now counsels youth from across the world, while also actively working for social issues close to his heart.

When the house was opened to audience, the intrigued faculty members and the students presented their queries which were responded by the two panelists who reiterated that,  in the core of resilience lies self-belief and how the process of resilience starts with being kind to oneself.

The discussion ended with Dr. Dhawan expressing gratitude to the panelists for sharing their stories and pointing out to the audience present that resilience doesn’t only mean to ‘bounce back’ to the routine ‘normal’ life but as evident from the real-life stories of the two panelists, goes beyond to mean ‘bounce forward’ in life.

Reported By – Charul Katiyar

Photo Credits – Archisha Bhattacharjee

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