Judith Rodin outlines five characteristics of resilience – awareness, diversity, integration, the capacity for self-regulation and adaptability .
And an individual or a community needs all five to be resilient.
Sometimes real or perceived threats can seem innumerable, but boiling them down to these five principles can aid clarification.
To illustrate, we’ll look at these five principles in the light of Andrew’s experience.
An individual needs to be self-aware and situationally aware.
It is rather like doing one’s own personal SWOT analysis.
We look at our own strengths and assets, liabilities and vulnerabilities and any threats or risks that we’re exposed to.
We think about our own resources realistically and also about the situations that we face.
This process is dynamic and fluid.
We constantly assess and reassess, taking in new information when circumstances change.
Andrew’s capacity for awareness was significantly limited by his physical exhaustion through overwork, his high self-expectation, feelings that he would be judged by his instructing solicitor, a fear that his perceived failure in court would lead to significant financial difficulties, a loss of emotional warmth given to and received from his family, and increasing unrecognised general and specific anxiety which had begun to show itself in latent physical symptoms.
His lack of awareness inhibited his perception of the physical discomfort that he was experiencing and what this might be leading to.
This led to a lack of situational awareness and an unrealistic appraisal of the consequences of his own sense that he had let himself and his client down in court.
His anxiety overrode his thinking.
In other words (in quasi-neurological terms) his brain took the low road, not the high road.
An entity needs to be diverse and have different sources of capacity so that it can successfully operate when some elements of that capacity are challenged.
We must be able to draw from a range of capabilities, ideas, information sources, technical elements, people or groups.
Again, anxiety inhibited Andrew’s competence in drawing from other resources.
He tried to obtain support from his head of chambers but was sceptically rebuffed, or at least that’s how he perceived it.
Others would have seen him as competent in many aspects of life but because of his increasing tunnel vision and inability to think about himself realistically (in other words to mentalise) he was restricted in his ability to draw from other resources.
A resilient person requires integration, in other words a coordination of functions and actions, including the ability to bring together disparate elements, and work collaboratively to develop cohesive solutions and coordinate actions.
Andrew was unable to think realistically about his other strengths and abilities and to see that one or two minor errors, to which everyone is prone, even the perfectionist, did not mean that he could not be sufficiently competent overall and both give a good account of himself and represent his client effectively.
He was unable to self-regulate.
He began to experience panic in court from situations.
Self-regulation contains the idea of a system “failing safely”.
He was unable to modulate his response and experienced a relatively minor failing as disastrous.
And catastrophic thinking followed.
His behaviour and thinking about himself became rigid and unimaginative.
Panic ensued and anxiety inhibited the ability to improvise and be flexible.
It also prevented him from thinking about himself in a kindly way rather than self-judgementally.
As we see, things changed and Andrew’s ability and competence in self-awareness, drawing from other resources, integrating and coordinating his responses, self-regulation and flexibility changed gradually, in the main with the support of his GP.
He reached a turning point.
He began to be able to ‘think about his thinking’ in a more realistic and effective way.
But what were some of the factors that helped Andrew to move to becoming more resilient?
And why did some simple life adjustments help him to turn the corner?
This had something to do with mindfulness …
 Rodin, J. (2015). The Resilience Dividend: Managing disruption, avoiding disaster, and growing stronger in an unpredictable world. London: Profile Books.
(This is an edited excerpt from my book A Lawyer’s Guide to Wellbeing and Managing Stress published by ARK Group in 2015.)