Reframing for Resilience


So the *$#& has just hit the fan and you need to be more resilient.

Warren Macdonald approaches the summit of Mt Kilimanjaro

Warren Macdonald approaches the summit of Mt Kilimanjaro

As I’ve said before, it’s too late.

Resilience is like a bank account.

You only have what you have.

That’s been my stance for a while now, but this recent article (link below) from The New Yorker has me rethinking this:

George Bonanno is a clinical psychologist.

He believes that it’s in times of adversity, or crisis, that we’re presented with an opportunity to build resilience, by reframing the experience…

That it’s precisely in that reframing that we wire (or rewire) our brains to become more resilient, and that surprisingly (or not), the foundational tool we use to reframe is one of my favorites; PERCEPTION.

“Events are not traumatic until we experience them as traumatic.”

George doesn’t refer to events as being “traumatic events”. He calls them potentially traumatic events (PTE’s) because as we know, events affect people in very different ways.

Same event, very different outcome for different people.

The same event, perceived differently…

So, it turns out we can learn to become more resilient.

By questioning how we see…

Check out the full article here (5 minute read)


This doesn’t mean it’s not a good idea to practice resilience in the meantime. By practicing, we’re training our minds and bodies to grow, which means it takes more adversity to put us into crisis mode in the first place.


Archived Comments


  1. martin says:

    July 9, 2016 at 1:16 pm

    Good day Warren………….

    A personal “thank you”!

    I meet you 5+ years ago in San Antonio and you inspired me to do “Kili” – thank you!!! It’s been a bout a year since last I was in touch with Chris – but he seemed to be faring well!

    This article arrived at the right time due to a few “physical” issues I’ve been dealing with (and not as well as I’d have liked). Thank you again!!!

    What struck me was the “how we perceive” the event – (filter maybe) and then how we respond – with despair or with – “I’ll accept this bump and use it to grow and build that resilience – currency you spoke of.

    Thanks again for the “hand up” my friend.

    I hope you are well……………………………………….




    • Warren Macdonald says:

      July 9, 2016 at 7:38 pm

      Thanks Martin,
      Great to hear from you and psyched you did Kili with Chris.
      I need to check in on him also; it’s been a while.
      Always amazes me the timing thing; how we get a message at a time we need it.
      Of course it helps to be open to the receiving 

      Thanks again for taking the time to write; really appreciate it.
      And all the best with the physical challenges.

      Happy to have put some of mine behind me these last few years.
      Of course there are more coming 

    • Mary HH says:

      July 9, 2016 at 8:22 pm

      I agree with your “New” stance. Sometimes you can’t expect the nasty things that get thrown at you. And what if it’s a situation totally “out of the blue”? Case in point… a younger friend of mine (in his late 40s) had a bad cold, which turned out to be a horrid case of pneumonia. He’s been in the ICU for over 3 weeks now, and is slowly recovering, but remains on a ventilator. He’s married, has two kids (10 and 6). In great shape, good lifestyle habits, nice guy.
      Well, he and his family is ‘holding it together’ because his wife (what a champ!) is using this as a “learning experience” (my summary of her attitude). WOW!
      On the one hand, you can say that having a loving family, a great support group of friends and age and good health would help him to “put resilience in the bank”. But really? How do you build resilience for something so totally unexpected that has had such a catastrophic result? You can’t…which is I think your point.
      I guess then that BOTH views have a place in reality.


    • Warren Macdonald says:

      July 12, 2016 at 3:43 pm

      Thanks Mary,
      Great to hear from you.
      I agree, I think both positions have a place.
      In your example, your friend absolutely changed the dynamic by how she framed the situation.
      But it also helps if you’re already a person who isn’t afraid of hard work; who is already challenging his or her self in some way (I’m guessing two kids qualifies  Staying in shape helps also).
      The support piece is a little different.
      I’ve seen people with incredible support not make it.
      They simply couldn’t find the strength within themselves to get through their moment of crisis.
      So support helps, but it’s not enough…
      Thanks again for taking the time to comment; I really appreciate it