There’s a scene in Crocodile Dundee that has stayed with me for the last thirty years, (has it really been thirty years) in which Mike Dundee is talking to his love interest, Sue who is from New York, about psychiatrists. Sue is explaining why a fried of hers sees one and that she goes to talk talk about her problems, to unload and get things out in the open, to which Mike asks “Hasn’t she got any mates?” As the conversation continues Mike suggests that back in Walkabout Creek “If you got a problem, you tell Wally, and he tells everyone in town…brings it out in the open…no more problem.”
I wrote at the beginning of May about the surprising finding in my recent research in to resilience that relatively few participants reported connection with other people as contributing towards their resilience; this despite the fact that social support is often quoted as one of the most important aspects of resilience.
This interesting finding came back to me a few days ago when I was listening to Siam Williams talking to Toni Bifulco at Middlesex University about the online test that she has developed for those at risk of resilience failure. As they talked Sian began to complete some of the questions that made up the online test.
A few questions in Sian was facing questions about who is close to her and who she confides in when she has a problem. A later question about specific incidences of trauma asked whether they did talk to those people that they had identified as close and as being confidants when they actually faced trauma.
The answers that tend to show up in the test is that people will say “Oh yes I’ve got lots of people I can talk to.” but when they are asked well who did you talk to and what did you say to them, they admit that “Well it’s my mother, but I couldn’t really talk to her because she has her own problems.”, which means that when it comes down to it people don’t have as much social support as they think they’ve got, or are allowing themselves to have.
Sian, who has lived through the trauma of having breast cancer suggested that she spoke to very few friends about her illness and rarely spoke to her husband because she thought that she was going to be able to cope on her own and didn’t want to visit her problems on them.
Toni suggested that the importance of finding out whether someone actually talked to someone that they could confide in and trust is important as it is a crucial factor in enhancing resilience.
Time and again social support shines through in research as an important element underpinning resilience, but if those who actually have people around them that they can trust and confide in, but still choose not to do so, then we have a slight problem in maintaining individual resilience.
Understanding what lies underneath people’s reluctance to talk about events that impact on their resilience would make a good topic for further research I think.