Build your resilience


Donald teaches you resilience

Welcome to this review of the book “Build your resilience: how to survive and thrive in any situation” which is written by Donald J. Robertson and published by Teach Yourself.

Donald is a UKCP registered psychotherapist, specialising in cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), clinical hypnosis, and other evidence-based approaches.

He has a clinic in Harley Street, London.

Donald has written several other psychology books including Stoicism and the Art of Happiness. He also runs the website Philosophy of CBT

What is resilience?

“You have power over your mind – not outside events. Realize this, and you will find strength” – Marcus Aurelius, Meditations

Unlike most self-help books, which aim to mend a specific problem, this aims to prevent psychological problems from occurring in the first place by building your psychological resilience to both current and future adversities.

Research on resilience is a specialised area. It began in the 1970s with a focus on children, and later broadened to cover the resilience of adults.

The idea is to anticipate stress and prepare in advance to minimise its impact.

One analogy we could use is weathering a storm: we cannot prevent the storm from coming, but if we know that it is coming we can batten down the hatches before it arrives.


One of the many images of hope, from the website Intent Blog

Research has found that some individuals able to cope very well with highly stressful life events including poverty, divorce and trauma. We describe these people as resilient, and will learn how to be more like these people.

Donald defines resilience as “the dynamic, ongoing process whereby people cope well with stressful events.” and provides a number of synonyms and antonyms for the word.

He has previously worked on several Government-funded research studies on CBT strategies.

The participants lived with large amounts of noise. He found distressed individuals suffered headaches, insomnia and digestive problems. Many participants lived with partners who coped much better with the noise, and sometimes barely even noticed it.

The studies found that once participants learned to accept the noise problem, they could become much less preoccupied with it. This led them to notice the sound less often.

According to Reivich & Shatte, who wrote the book The Resilience Factor, there are for main types of challenge calling for resilience:

  • Overcoming childhood problems (e.g. broken home/neglect/abuse)
  • Living with daily hassles (e.g. relationship or work problems)
  • Recovering from major setbacks (e.g. redunduncy/bereavement/serious illness)
  • Reaching out for greater meaning and purpose (expanding beyond our comfort zone)

Social Support

A key factor in becoming more resilient is social support. People who have a supportive family, good relationships with friends or community groups tend to have more resilience in the face of adversity.

Donald list some of the benefits of healthy relationships:

  • Having positive role models to look up to and learn from
  • Experiencing care and support from others that you love or trust
  • Being able to share your problems
  • Receiving encouragement and reassurance

Research has also found that providing support to others can lead to increased personal resilience.

Individual Characteristics

There are two categories of characteristics which contribute to resilience: attitudes and skills

Desirable attitudes are:

  • Healthy self-esteem, self-worth and self-acceptance
  • Self-confidence

Desirable skills are:

  • Good problem-solving abilities
  • Social skills such as assertiveness, empathy and communication skills
  • Emotional self-regulation

The good news is all of these attitudes and skills can be developed through resilience-building training.

Self evaluation – how resilient are you?

Donald invites you to rate each of the following statements from 0 to 10:

  • I have plenty of support from other people in life
  • I am able to accept myself for who I really am
  • I am confident in my ability to cope with adversity
  • I am good at facing challenging problems in life and solving them systematically
  • I cope well with my emotions in the face of adversity

Based on your answers to these questions, you should have a good overall idea of how resilient you are. But whatever your score, you have the opportunity now to increase your resilience further.

The Road to Resilience

The American Psychological Association has produced the guide The Road to Resilience.

This includes 10 ways to build resilience:

  1. Make connections.
  2. Avoid seeing crises as insurmountable problems.
  3. Accept that change is a part of living.
  4. Move toward your goals.
  5. Take decisive actions.
  6. Look for opportunities for self-discovery.
  7. Nurture a positive view of yourself.
  8. Keep things in perspective.
  9. Maintain a hopeful outlook.
  10. Take care of yourself.

For an explanation of each of these points see their guide.

This review is based on the first introductory chapter of the book. The full book has 12 chapters including:

  • Acceptance and defusion
  • Mindfulness and the present moment
  • Problem-Solving Training
  • Assertiveness and social skills
  • Stoic philosophy and resilience

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