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OSI and Resilience – Is this what hope feels like?

Updated: Jan 10, 2022

According to the Mayo Clinic, Resilience means being able to adapt to life's misfortunes and setbacks. ... If you lack resilience, you might dwell on problems, feel victimized, become overwhelmed or turn to unhealthy coping mechanisms, such as substance abuse. The American Psychological Association or APA describes what resilience isn’t:

“Being resilient doesn’t mean that a person won’t experience difficulty or distress. People who have suffered major adversity or trauma in their lives commonly experience emotional pain and stress. In fact, the road to resilience is likely to involve considerable emotional distress.

While certain factors might make some individuals more resilient than others, resilience isn’t necessarily a personality trait that only some people possess. On the contrary, resilience involves behaviors, thoughts, and actions that anyone can learn and develop. The ability to learn resilience is one reason research has shown that resilience is ordinary, not extraordinary. One example is the response of many Americans to the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks and individuals’ efforts to rebuild their lives after tragedy.

Like building a muscle, increasing your resilience takes time and intentionality. Focusing on four core components—connection, wellness, healthy thinking, and meaning—can empower you to withstand and learn from difficult and traumatic experiences. To increase your capacity for resilience to weather—and grow from—the difficulties, use these strategies.”

In fact, there is a term called ‘Post Traumatic Growth’ where people who have suffered from great trauma have actually grown from that experience and became strong proponents of health and even wisdom regarding mental and even physical health. According to, there are four factors to developing Post-Traumatic growth, and these are factors that everyone should be able to understand:

· Brutally Honest Optimism - Optimism reduces our sense of helplessness when things feel out of control. It also allows motivates us to take constructive action. However, this is not the Pollyanna, unicorns and rainbows, “everything’s going to be okay” brand of optimism (although we often need to hear that everything’s going to be okay even if we don’t really believe it).

· Perception of Control Over Events - No one likes being stuck in limbo. If there’s something you can do, even if it’s to channel your anxiety by cleaning the kitchen floor or to offer a tissue to someone in distress, we all feel better when we can take action. What makes an experience traumatic is that we were not able to control the circumstances that led to us being harmed in some way. Recovery is about regaining control.

1. Primary control is taking action to change a situation, for example by reporting a sexual assault.

2. Secondary control is changing your orientation to a situation. For many people, this can be finding meaning and purpose in the aftermath of trauma, such as by using their experiences to help others.

One of the most glorious aspects of post-traumatic growth is learning how to become empowered. Once you’ve decided that you will advocate for yourself and take steps to keep yourself safe, you no longer identify as a victim but as a survivor who is strong and in control of his/her life

· Coping Style - What is your coping style? Do you immediately start problem solving and planning (active coping) or do you head out to the movies to escape into a fantasy world (avoidance coping)? Both approaches can be helpful, but avoidance is only good for giving yourself a break short-term – long term it turns into denial, which takes a toll on your body and prevents you from ever truly living in the present because you are so busy stuffing down your past. The type of coping style that is the best predictor of post-traumatic growth is ‘acceptance and positive reinterpretation.’ This is characterized by optimism and humor. ‘Keep calm and carry on’ does not speak to me of my British compatriots’ stoicism during World War II but of the ability to crack jokes even as the sirens are wailing. For Correctional Officers, this is often shown in the dark humour found when CO’s are amongst each other!

· Strong Sense of Self - Having a strong sense of self depends on having a purpose in life, high self-esteem, and being able to create a coherent narrative. Without being able to make sense of our story, we cannot integrate it, learn from it, or get a distance from it. As Daniel Siegel points out, a coherent narrative prevents us from unconsciously repeating the lack of connection we experienced with our parents in our relationship with our own children.

A strong sense of self is also predicated on ‘ego strength.’ What is that and how do you get it? I think Erik Erikson provided the best answer in his description of the stages of human development. I will leave you with his theory, which reads to me like a poem about how to raise healthy children:

Hope emerges from trust versus mistrust Will from autonomy versus shame and doubt Purpose from initiative versus guilt Competence from industry versus inferiority Loyalty from identity versus identity confusion Love from intimacy versus isolation Care from generativity [contribution] versus stagnation Wisdom from integrity versus despair

Trust Vs Mistrust is a developmental stage where experiences determine a child’s development, if the care the infant receives is consistent, predictable and reliable, they will develop a sense of trust which will carry with them to other relationships, and they will be able to feel secure even when threatened. In adults, once we lose that consistency and reliability in our lives, Hope becomes a difficult thing to see until we regain a future we can envision as hopeful again. Once again bringing in a perception of control over events.

We at OSI-CAN do not see PTSD or Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder as a Disorder, we see it as an Injury you can recover from. If you are suffering from the symptoms of an Occupational or Operational Stress Injury, then a PTSD or PTSI diagnosis is not required to get our help!

Our mission is to inspire hope and contribute to the continuous well-being and recovery process of Veterans and Front Line Protectors across Canada.

We seek to empower and encourage them to strive for recovery through peer and professional support while creating greater public awareness.

We at OSI-CAN do not see PTSD or Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder as a Disorder, we see it as an Injury you can recover from. If you are suffering from the symptoms of an Occupational or Operational Stress Injury, then a PTSD or PTSI diagnosis is not required to get our help

The target demographic of OSI-CAN are but are not limited to: former and serving members of the Canadian Armed Forces, Allied Armed Forces, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and Frontline Protectors --- which include Municipal Police Services, CN Police Services, Emergency Medical Services, Fire Protection Services, Wildland Firefighters, Hospital Trauma personnel, Nurses, healthcare Workers, Social Workers, Animal Control Officers, Coroners, Indigenous Emergency Management, Victim Services Personnel, Emergency Communications Specialist, Corrections Officers, “Volunteer” First Responders, Conservation Officers, Aboriginal Emergency Services personnel, Tow Truck drivers who clean up accident scenes and their spouses/partners. This demographic was chosen due to the commonality of experiences they share through the service they provide to the country and community. We have a special interest and support volunteer first responders as they are not eligible for programs such as Workers' Compensation.

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