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Ten Resilience Factors to Overcome PTSD

By Dr. Karl Benzio MD

Page Overview

Experiencing Harmful Events is Inevitable

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, as we’ve described in earlier pages, is a protective, but maladaptive and disruptive reaction to a stressful or traumatic event. The way to avoid suffering from PTSD would be to avoid all hurtful, stressful, or traumatic events. Sadly, we can all attest to the fact that we will all be a victim of or be a witness either first hand or via the media to upsetting or tragic events. In fact, the inevitability of trials and tribulations is taught in The Bible.

If we think leading a perfect life will lead to the avoidance of being a victim of trauma, abuse, or some other hurtful event in this world, we just need to look at Jesus. He was perfect, loved people, and was always trying to help people, yet He experienced some of the worst abuse and trauma ever documented, and certainly the most unfair abuse.

Resiliency Is Key Strategy

Avoiding hurts and traumas is impossible, so the next strategy is being resilient to the effects of trauma. The definition of resiliency is:

Resilience (noun) or Resiliency (noun) is being able to recover quickly from misfortune; able to return to original form after being bent, compressed, or stretched out of shape. A human ability to recover quickly from disruptive change, or misfortune without being overwhelmed or acting in dysfunctional or harmful ways.

For the purposes our discussion of PTSD, resiliency describes a person’s ability when they experience or witness abuse, trauma, a hurtful situation, or losing something important, to resist being overwhelmed and not have their functioning markedly disrupted. In fact, a quick recovery to the pre-event level of functioning occurs and the individual might even be strengthened by the incident.

Research Reveals 10 Resiliency Characteristics

According to Dennis Charney, MD, Dean of Research and Professor of Psychiatry and Neuroscience, Pharmacology, and Biological Chemistry at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York City, 10 characteristics have been shown to protect a person who is exposed to extreme stress from being adversely impacted by it. These 10 resiliency characteristics were observed in POW and were protecting them from developing PTSD, depression, addiction or other related psychological issues.

The 10 protective characteristics Dr. Charney’s research identified are:

  1. Optimism
  2. Altruism
  3. Strong Moral Compass
  4. Deep Faith and Spirituality
  5. Sense of Humor
  6. Having had a Strong Role Model
  7. Social Supports
  8. Past experience and success Facing Fear
  9. Mission or Meaning in Life
  10. Training in dealing with adversity

Resiliency: Spiritual Faith In Action

As we take a closer look at these 10 characteristics, we see a several that seem quite spiritual, but if we look a bit more closely, we find they all are products of and can be developed through a rich spiritual life and growing walk with God. Let’s unpack each one a little further:

  1. Optimism – knowing God loves me, humbled Himself to die for me, and after I accepted Christ as my personal Savior I will live in forever with Him in heaven gives me a very optimistic attitude. I know the big war has been won and death has been defeated, so I am confident God will stand by His promises and teachings to will help me be victorious in any adversity I experience in this life.
  2. Altruism – the Christian life is about obeying God’s calling, being the best we can be, helping achieve a greater good, serving others, and loving your neighbor and enemies and is exactly what Jesus modeled and what we are called to do.
  3. Moral compass – the 10 commandments of the Old Testament, the two great commandments of the New Testament (love God with our heart, soul, mind, strength and love our neighbor as ourselves), and many teachings and directions in the Bible are foundational for every society’s moral compass discussion.
  4. Faith and spirituality – basic to Christian living is being able to view life outside of just mind and body spheres, having appreciation for our Divine Creator and His perspective and intentions. Being confident and assured a divine power greater than us exists and His teachings and promises are always true, then engaging God in a personal way having strong faith to implement those teachings, regardless of the adversity.
  5. Sense of humor – God is mysterious with a great sense of irony and humor. If you look closely at your life, you will see it and chuckle, but He also shares it in the Bible:
    1. Proverbs 11:22, “Like a gold ring in a pig’s snout is a beautiful woman who shows no discretion.”
    2. You wonder if Solomon had just fought with one of his many wives when he said in Proverbs 21:9, “Better to live on a corner of the roof than share a house with a quarrelsome wife.”
    3. Proverbs 22:13, “The sluggard says, ‘There is a lion outside!'” That sounds like as good excuse to me as any on days when I feel lazy.
    4. Jacob, tricking his father (Isaac) and brother (Esau) to get the birthright (Genesis 25 and 27), but then later being tricked into 7 more years of hard labor to marry Rachel (Genesis 29).
    5. The best humor is about being able to laugh at ourselves. With a truly Godly attitude, our view of ourselves should be so humbled to God’s authority, that seeing our weaknesses, mistakes, and God’s grace and teaching leads us to laugh at ourselves and see God’s interesting tactics to catch our attention and guide us to safety.
  6. Having a role model – Jesus Christ obviously is the best and ultimate role model we could ever choose. God also gives us various characters, personalities, or circumstances in the Bible who might connect or resonate with us more directly to guide our thoughts and decisions. Abraham, Job, Noah, Daniel, Joseph of the many colored coat, David of Goliath fame, Moses, Esther, Paul, Peter, Ruth, Mary, Samson, Rahab, the adultress at the well, the man possessed by a legion of demons, etc.
  7. Social Supports – as a Christian, we share a special bond with our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ. Christian community and church family are powerful source of encouragement, help, support, accountability, mentoring, and camaraderie. For example, I’ve been to Iraq and Africa and became close with total strangers as soon as I met them because of our shared faith in Christ.
  8. Facing Fear – As Christians we all acknowledged the greatest fear of all, eternal separation from God and then resolved it by making a choice to accept God’s gift of Christ’s death to bring us into an eternal relationship with God. The Bible is all about Satan attacking us and breeding fear through adversity and how God has provided peace and answers for us to persevere and even grow while shining His glory.
  9. Mission or Meaning in life – when the King of the universe humbles Himself to save ME, wow! that thought always brings tears to my eyes. Just like in the olden days when a person’s life was spared, they were indebted to the one who saved them, I now have a mission to serve the One who saved me and help everyone enjoy this same joy, freedom, and peace I enjoy.
  10. Training – the Christian walk is about training everyday in life to become more Christ-like with God as our perfect parent/coach/teacher/drill instructor and the Bible as the training manual.

Science Again Validates the Bible!

As you can see, the characteristics of the Christian way of life arm us with a diverse array of easy to implement and divinely powerful weapons to battle against and be resilient in the face of this spiritual warfare that can lead to injuries of PTSD, depression, suicidal intentions, addictions, and all other behavioral health or psychological issues. These behavioral health issues then have the biggest impact on the physical health and well-being, more than any other single factor.

Do all Christians live their life avidly pursuing this resiliency training, growing in understanding and relationship with God, becoming Godly decision-makers? Sadly, we don’t. But when we do, not only is our eternal destiny changed, but our temporal living here on earth is blessed with maximal psychospiritual, and often physical, healing and great opportunity to live the abundant life God designed and Jesus died for us to live. To ultimately achieve our God-given potential!

For those struggling with PTSD, or any other mental or behavioral health issue, the answer for true healing is found in the pages of Scripture. God’s instruction manual for our lives will always lead us in the path that leads to a healed and transformed life – we need just follow His teachings. A treatment plan using proven therapies to communicate the guidance of God’s word is the best way to treat PTSD and other related conditions.

Our Creator knows exactly how we function the best and instructs us how to get the most out of life because He loves us and wants the best for us. So it isn’t surprising, but is still very exciting and refreshing to see science and research validating what the Bible teaches us. God didn’t make us as robots, programmed to follow Him blindly. Instead, God gave us free will, the ability to decide for ourselves what direction we will go, who we follow, who we position as the authority of our life, whose instruction manual will guide us. Our biggest challenge is the decision you make regarding these important life-changing questions. Choosing well leads to healing, choosing wrong leads to confusion and despair.

We pray you choose well and seek the support or professional counsel which will guide you through the struggles of life.