The generic principles for recovery from trauma and loss involve the reconstruction of meaning, the rebuilding of hope, and the sense of empowerment necessary to regain control over one’s being and life (Herman, 1992). Constructs of meaning are inseparable from culture. Furthermore, genetic influences that put individuals at risk for developing traumatic symptoms cannot be adequately understood without taking into consideration their interdependence with environmental factors (Binder et al., 2008), such as culture. This chapter highlights the interface between trauma, culture, and resiliency.
Apfel and Simon (1996), Masten and Coatsworth (1998), and Wolin and Wolin (1996) outlined the characteristics of resiliency as (1) resourcefulness; (2) ability to attract and use support; (3) curiosity and intellectual mastery; (4) compassion, with detachment; (5) conviction of one’s right to survive; (6) ability to remember and invoke images of good and sustaining figures; (7) ability to be in touch with affects, not denying or suppressing major affects as they arise; (8) goal to live for; (9) vision of the possibility and desirability of restoration of civilized moral order; (10) the need and ability to help others; (11) ability to conceptualize; (12) an affective repertory; (13) altruism toward others; and (14) turning “traumatic helplessness” into “learned helpfulness.” In addition to these characteristics of resiliency, there are more culturally bound characteristics of resiliency (Bell, 2001) such as (1) having a sense of “Atman” (true self); (2) developing kokoro (heart), also known as “indomitable fighting spirit” (Bell & Suggs, 1998); (3) having a totem, an animal spirit that lives inside; and (4) being able to cultivate chi, Chinese for internal energy (Cohen, 1997; Bell, 2000, 2008a).