The concept of resilience in psychology is analyzed, emphasizing Ibero-American authors who use it in their research. It is shown how, once one starts from a logical confusion, a conceptual one emerges from it, from which a methodological one emerges, to conclude with an interpretation one. A chain of confusions at the end of the road allows us to justify why resilience is a concept that is neither useful nor relevant to psychology.
The concept of resilience in psychology is analyzed, emphasizing Ibero-American authors who used it in their research. I argue how, once the authors’ part of a logical confusion, this one becomes a conceptual confusion, which follows a methodological, concluding with one of the interpretation confusions. A successive chain of confusions allows justifying why resilience is a concept that is neither helpful nor relevant to psychology.
The scientific theory of the psychological, as a technical language that describes the forms of remarkable regularities, plays the defining role of the discipline […] the theory is justified in the ordinary world of the psychological, it is compared with other epistemic options and logic, allows distinguishing psychological concepts from concepts provided by other disciplines, defines the forms of collaboration with other disciplines, indicates how psychological knowledge is applied through interdisciplinary and demystifies the pathologization of psychological life-restoring its interpersonal quality and, therefore, of social capacity and corresponding moral commitment (Ribes, 2010; p. 63).
The raw material of psychology, says Ribes (2010), is made up of ordinary language terms that have to do with the saying, feeling and doing of people behaving individually; They include, among others, attending, perceiving, speaking, thinking, reasoning and remembering, as well as phenomena that include emotions, development, personality, competences and motives (Ribes, 2004, 2010). They are terms that will be part of a particular type of theory, yes, and only if, first, an intermediate step is completed that goes from the language of the natural history of phenomena (as concrete objects) as they appear to us in life daily life, to the academic language (as conceptual objects) of the discipline (Ribes, 2011).
Since the terms that come from ordinary language make sense as social and interpersonal practices that deal with the “raw” phenomenology of the psychological, according to the author, their function is one: that of communication between people, identifying how the behaviour of one person affects another’s through language (Figure 1). For their part, in technical language, they fulfill a different function: describing and designating. This is so because, in ordinary language, the terms have as many uses and meanings as the contexts and circumstances in which they are used, while in a technical language, they are univocal and have a single meaning when used as concepts in theory (Ribes, 1990).
That said, a psychologist cannot borrow terms from ordinary language and use them as technical terms. In doing so, he is violating an elementary principle frequently overlooked by the collective of psychologists. In this regard, Ribes (1990) points out the following; We will cite for its importance in length:
In conclusion, the conceptual analysis of ordinary language does not constitute a psychological theory, but it is indispensable for its formulation. Its usefulness lies in the fact that, firstly, it allows the identification of categorical errors and confusions that come from the transmutation of ordinary language into technical language, since, secondly, it helps to delineate the terrain of everyday psychological events at its various levels of functional meaning, a sine qua non condition for formulating a specific taxonomy and technical language suitable for a scientific analysis of behaviour (Ribes, 1990; p. 20).
From these brief considerations about the differences between ordinary and technical languages , it is proposed to analyze a concept that since the 1970s has come to occupy an almost privileged place in psychology; we refer to that of resilience. It is not just any concept because, in principle, it could not even be said that it has to do with the psychological phenomenology, much less than it is distinguished by its precision and clarity when defining it.
The reader will be able to verify that the de resilience has acquired a special status as a kind of wild card and multipurpose concept, which is even confused with other concepts or expressions, such as empathy, sense of humour, coping, self-efficacy, perseverance, competence, religiosity, optimism, tenacity, personal control, “resistant” personality, and so on. Here, we include authors who have justified their work in a conceptual analysis of the term (i.e., Earvolino-Ramirez, 2007; Fernández-Lansac and Crespo, 2011; Garcia-Ona Jakoboswki, & O’Flagerty, 2013; Windle, 2011), as well as those who use it routinely in their research.
Neuroscience constitutes necessary support for work on resilience since it provides the scientific basis that shows that the human brain can adapt to changes through neural plasticity. “This ‘adaptability’ of the brain allows the human being to have faith in the future and overcome situations in which there seems to be no way out,” he points out.
Santos explains that his work in this line began more than 15 years ago in people who had gone through significant trauma such as catastrophes, terrorism or rapes, all of the situations that usually produce post-traumatic stress. The psychiatrist points out that the consultations of people affected by similar symptoms but with a more common problem such as a job loss or a romantic break up have increased in the last five years.
In this sense, the development of greater resilience and being aware of the existence of this human capacity represent an opportunity to overcome the challenges that arise on a day-to-day basis and to be prepared for those two or three traumatic events that occur in the life of every person and that they can get to ‘break’ it, in the words of the psychiatrist.
As a general rule, the specialist points out that there are four areas in which work is done to overcome the trauma:
- The acceptance of reality
- The adaptation or reformulation of life after the trauma
- The construction of a social support network and the search for meaning or purpose in life
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