According to engineers, resilience is the property of a material to absorb energy when it is deformed elastically and then, upon unloading to have this energy recovered. This recovered energy is stored elastically. Put another way, applying a stress or load to these types of material can actually produce energy. The primary concern here seems to be assessing, (and developing), materials strength, adaptability and applications. This is important since there is crossover when the concept is applied in a psychological and humanistic approach. While a utilitarian focus might assign these same criteria, this will not give an accurate description of a ‘resilient’ person or system.

Psychological resilience, is the positive capacity of people to cope with stress and catastrophe. It’s described as the dynamic process where individuals exhibit positive adjustments to that adversity. Certain factors are known to influence one’s resiliency. These have been studied extensively by researchers to both predict outcomes and provide resources to individuals who are likely to encounter these stressors. Some groups including the US Army have established programs addressing this. One called “Warrior Resiliency Program” has devoted helpful resources to veterans. While civilians are unlikely to encounter these scenarios, repeated ‘low grade’ stressors cause many of the same effects to a lesser degree. Often ineffective coping mechanisms are employed to “deal with” these stressors. Often these strategies contribute to chronic illness, or undesirable outcomes. If one examines the types of illnesses and discomfort we experience, it’s clear that lifestyle and personal choice can be directly linked to them.

It could be argued that like materials, people can benefit from stressors. Just as the energy in certain metals and organic materials can be retrieved after applying pressure, people can perform better with pressure applied. We can think of this as “rebound” or bounce-back. By definition, resiliency will not develop without these pressures. The trick is to provide us with tools that can support us during what I’ll call “the crucible stage.” This is where acupuncture comes in. The Chinese characters for resilience are hui fu li (恢復力). The best translation is ‘to restore strength’.

Acupuncture doesn’t remove either the stressor or the experience, but instead provides a clear ground to support the client when adversity strikes. It gently holds the client while they generate workable solutions to the situation. It allows the person to draw strength from their own being and simultaneously builds the individual. While many people know acupuncture can be employed for pain and physical discomfort in backaches, it can also tap our nascent and hidden strengths. In the workplace, it can be the key to resiliency in those situations where we need to find ourselves, and still allow us to effectively interact with the outside. If we are body and spirit-centered, we connect with others. When this happens, the whole system benefits along with the individual.