Summer 2016 - Resiliency Reader Index

Featured articles include:  • Molly's Corner • Shaping Oneself from the Inside (by Glen Fahs) • Resiliency: Nature or Nuture? (by Molly Siebert) • Your #1 Most Important Resilience Mindset (article by Michelle Atlas) • Elie Wiesel: The Passing of a Resiler (reflection) •  Resiliency Quote of the Quarter • Research Question of the Quarter • Worthwhile Read • Announcements: Resiliency Opportunities in Europe — from newly certified Resiliency Facilitator Harry Sarve from Sweden, and established German Resilitator Julia Scharnhorst. Read the emailed version of the Newsletter

Elie Wiesel: The Passing of a Resiler

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 - see NL article page for photo credit

by Kristin Pintarich

We'd like to pay tribute to one of the most outspoken Holocaust survivors, Elie Wiesel, who died in July. Wiesel was 15 years old when he and his family were sent to a string of concentration camps, initially enduring the death of his mother, younger sister, and eventually his father. After years of silence on the Holocaust, Wiesel opened up about the experience, wrote his best-selling memoir Night, relocated to New York City, became a US citizen, and spent his life devoted to remembrance of the Holocaust and prevention of future atrocities.

Wiesel was the recipient of the 1986 Nobel Peace Prize and authored nearly 60 books, both fiction and non-fiction. According to his foundation's website, he worked endlessly "to combat indifference, intolerance and injustice through international dialogue and youth-focused programs that promote acceptance, understanding and equality."

Themes common to Wiesel’s body of work are to never forget and “never again.” Both of which are integral to the resiliency process for individuals and communities. Unless analyzed and dealt with, history can repeat itself, and choosing not to repeat certain old behaviors and attitudes is a sign of integration and learning.

Elie Wiesel was a prominent example of the Level 5 resiliency principle of serendipity — turning extreme misfortune into good fortune:

"Having survived by chance, I felt I must confer a meaning on my survival. There was nothing else I could do, so I wrote."
(from "Chicago Students Learn a Lesson in Resilience when Elie Wiesel Visits" a speech to students at Orr High School, Chicago, Ill., April 24, 2002)

We encourage you to explore more about Elie Wiesel’s remarkable story and lifelong efforts toward obtaining world peace.

Resources for additional learning:

Photo Credit: World Economic Forum from Cologny, Switzerland - World Economic Forum Annual Meeting Davos 2003, CC BY-SA 2.0,

Kristin Pintarich is Editor in Chief for Practical Psychology Press, a sister company to the Al Siebert Resiliency Center. She has a BA in communications from Oregon State University and was assistant to Dr. Siebert from 1991 through his death in 2009.

Resiliency: Nature or Nurture?

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There are some professionals and researchers who believe resilience "is not a trait or something that some children simply possess" and "there is no such thing as an 'invulnerable child'"—one that is innately resilient. It is their belief that "resilience is the product of a large number of developmental processes over time that has allowed children who experience some sort of risk to continue to develop completely." (Yates)

My question to you is what do you believe? Do you believe resilience is based purely on development? Or is it solely inherited and genetic? Or some combination of both?

In Al Siebert's book, The Survivor Personality, there is a chapter called "The Roots of Resiliency." He indicates while there are many tools and resources available to children (and adults) you will not be able to utilize those resources effectively unless you also draw upon your inner resources. (TSP, pg 136). He goes on to say:

Our bodies have three major nervous systems: the autonomic, somatic, and central. The autonomic nervous system governs the state of our feelings. The somatic controls our physical actions. The central nervous system contains the cerebral cortex that makes possible our verbal, conceptual thinking and nonverbal, visual thinking.

As we grow up we develop a sense of ourselves linked to the three major nervous systems. We develop feelings about ourselves, we anticipate our ability to take effective actions, and we develop thoughts about ourselves. These external experiences of one's self are referred to self-esteem, self-confidence, and self-concept. (TSP, pg 137)

Siebert indicates the level of a child's ability to cope with "life adversities" is directly linked to the level of development of self-esteem, self-confidence, and self-concept. Did Siebert believe resilience can be learned? Absolutely — at any age. He states:

Most introductory psychology textbooks define learning as a relatively permanent change in behavior that results from experience. In a world that is constantly changing, it is important to understand that changes requires learning. The two concepts, change and learning, are inseparably linked." (TSP, pg 15)

While he truly believed any individual can learn and develop resilience, he also believed there are individuals who have the capacity for high levels of resilience already within them.

The professionals mentioned above caused me to wonder about one's genetic capacity for resilience. Is there an inherent capacity in all of us? Does everyone have the gene for resilience, is it a selective gene, or is there no gene at all? And, if everyone has the gene, what factors affect the level of capacity for resilience?

While searching online on the question, "Is resilience genetic?", I found a couple of articles on the emerging science that is researching the neurobiological basis of resilience. ( For example, it is thought that neuropeptide Y (NPY and 5-Dehydroepiandrosterone [5-DHEA]) "limits the stress response by reducing sympathetic nervous system activation and protecting the brain from the potentially harmful effects of chronically elevated cortisol levels respectively." (Charney)

Other findings in neurobiological science research in resilience include:

  1. "The relationship between social support and stress resilience is thought to be mediated by the oxytocin system's impact on the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis." (Ozbay, Fitterling, Charney, Southwick).
  2. "Resilience, conceptualized as a positive bio-psychological adaptation, has proven to be a useful theoretical context for understanding variables for predicting long-term health and well-being."

These findings indicate to me that since there are protective biological responses to positivity and stress resilience, there is likely a genetic basis for the resilience response. Currently there is ongoing research to validate the hypothesis that, "like trauma, resilience is epigenetic" that is, it may be inherited.(Pember) The science behind this is preliminary.

So, back to the question, is a person's capacity to resile, to cope, and to constantly change and learn a genetic or inherited neurobiological process? Siebert indicates "we humans are born needing to learn how to survive in this world. Human children are not like insects and small animals" which are hard-wired with a "preprogrammed neurology for finding food and shelter and avoiding danger." However, the "more a creature's behavior is preprogrammed, the less its behavior can be altered through learning....We humans need to learn how to survive." (Siebert, The Resiliency Advantage, pg 92). Does this infer we all have a gene that provides the capacity for resilience?

I am intrigued with the following references which I believe support Siebert's theories:

  1. The longitudinal studies of researchers like Emmy Werner have reported characteristics in young children that are associated with "coping abilities under adverse conditions" (Werner 1995, p. 82). According to Werner, infants who are "active, affectionate, cuddly, good-natured, and easy to deal with" are more likely to be resilient in the face of adversity. Other researchers have noted that infants and toddlers who show resilience are "alert, easy to soothe, and able to elicit support from a nurturant family member" (p. 82). Resilient preschoolers' characteristics include the ability to be autonomous and to ask for help when needed-characteristics that are also predictive of resilience in later years.


  2. D. Breslin has studied children who seem to be adequately "adapting and surviving," despite the negative life events and stress they experience. She has identified four characteristics that resilient children exhibit: heightened sensory awareness, high positive expectations, a clear and developing understanding of one's strengths relating to accomplishment, and a heightened, developing sense of humor (Breslin 2005).


  3. Bonnie Benard believes in the "self-righting nature of the human organism." She states that research in resilience:
    ...validates prior research and theory in human development that has clearly established the biological imperative for growth and development that exists in the human organism — that is part of our genetic makeup — and which unfolds naturally in the presence of certain environmental attributes. We are all born with innate resiliency, with the capacity to develop the traits commonly found in resilient survivors: social competence (responsiveness, cultural flexibility, empathy, caring, communication skills, and a sense of humor); problem-solving (planning, help-seeking, critical and creative thinking); autonomy (sense of identity, self-efficacy, self-awareness, task-mastery, and adaptive distancing from negative messages and conditions); and a sense of purpose and belief in a bright future (goal direction, educational aspirations, optimism, faith, and spiritual connectedness) (Benard, 1991). It is our inborn capacity for self-righting (Werner and Smith, 1992) and for transformation and change (Lifton, 1993).

I feel alignment of Al Siebert's work with Benard's agreement with the work of Werner and Breslin regarding the "self-righting nature of the human organism." Bernard's belief that "the biological imperative for growth and development...[that] unfolds naturally in the presence of certain environmental attributes" also tracks with Siebert's conclusions about resiliency being something that we develop over time depending on our individual stresses and strains, not knowing when it will be called upon. "We are all born with innate resiliency, with the capacity to develop the traits," agrees Bernard. Stated simply by A. Matson, "When adversity is relieved and basic human needs are restored, then resilience has a chance to emerge." In my mind, both thoughts provide validation of Dr. Al Siebert's research in the late twentieth century about how resiliency can be developed in anyone.

So, do you believe resilience is purely a byproduct of development and learning, purely inherited or both? It appears to me the answer is both. We humans have the genetic capacity to both develop and learn resiliency skills.

Please join our discussion forum to let us know your thoughts.


  • Bernard, Bonnie. "Foundations of the Resiliency Framework". (Retrieved June 22, 2016.
    * References provided within article by Bonnie Bernard:
    • Lifton, R (1993). The Protean Self: Human Resilience in An Age of Transformation. New York: Basics Books.
    • Matson, A (1994). "Resilience in individual development: Successful adaptation despite risk and adversity." In Wang, M. and Gordon, E (eds.) Educational Resilience in Inner-City America: Challenges and Prospects. Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.
  • Breslin, D (2005). "Children's Capacity to Develop Resiliency: How to Nurture It." Young Children 60 (1): 47-52.
  • Charney, DS (2004). "Psychobiological mechanisms of resilience and vulnerability: implications for successful adaptation to extreme stress." AM J Psychiatry 161 (2):195-216. Doi:10.1176/appi.ajp.161.2.195.
  • Ozbay, F; Fitterling, H; Charney, D; Southwick, S (2008). "Social support and resilience to stress across the life span: A neurobiologic framework". Current Psychiatry Reports 10(4): 304-10. Doi:10.007/s11920-008-0049-7. PMID 18627668.
  • Pember, Mary Annette (May 28, 2015). "Trauma May Be Woven in DNA of Native Americans." Indian Country Today. (Retrieved June 28, 2016.
  • "Psychological Resilience." Wikipedia: (Retrieved April 23, 2016.
  • "Brain scan fortells who fold under pressure." (Retrieved May 5, 2016.
  • Siebert, Al, PhD (2005). The Resiliency Advantage. Berrett-Kohler. ISBN: 978-1-57675-329-3
  • Siebert, Al, PhD (2010). The Survivor Personality. Perigee/Penguin. ISBN: 978-0-399-53592-5
  • Werner, Emmy. 1995. "Resilience in Development." Current Directions in Psychological Science 4 (3): 81-85
  • Yates, T. M. Egeland, B., & Sroufe, L. A. (2003) "Rethinking resilience: A developmental process perspective", pp. 234-256 in S.S. Luthar (Ed.), Resilience and vulnerability: Adaptation in the context of childhood adversities. New York: Cambridge University Press, ISBN 0521001617.


About Molly: Molly and Al Siebert were married from March, 2003, until his death in June, 2009. Molly is a champion of Al’s work and philosophy and is a huge proponent of keeping his important works on resiliency alive and and thriving. She first served as the Resiliency Center Marketing Director until she took over the reins after Al’s passing. Molly recieved a Bachelor degree in Health Information Technology Management which has served her well in the medical field. Review her profile on LinkedIn.

Shaping Oneself from the Inside

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by Glen Fahs, PhD

Steve Hanamura was born blind but that didn't stop him from envisioning an ambitious future. He expected greatness and against, all odds, achieved it.

I recruited Steve first to be Program Chair and then to be President of the Oregon chapter of the American Society for Training and Development (ASTD — recently re-titled the Association for Talent Development). The latter volunteer job demanded at least four out-of-state council meetings. He wasn't sure he wanted to travel that much or was ready to lead a thriving chapter. He went back and forth three times before taking the risk to do it.

Just prior, he had let go of a comfortable job at the Oregon Commission for the Blind to work for a bank and had been let go after six months. Determined not to accept welfare, he called me for advice on becoming a consultant. I advised to avoid the common training topics and become known for something unique. In 1986, he founded Hanamura Consulting with emphasis on diversity.

Since as chapter President he was already going to the ASTD national conference, he offered to give a presentation on multi-cultural interaction. After his session to 250 training and development professionals (of several thousand attending the conference), he shared enthusiastically, "I had them in the palm of my hand, Glen!" "How could you tell?" I asked, but didn't doubt that he knew.

Business came slow and his wife left him and the kids behind. I don't know how he survived but he still refused welfare. Then when the next ASTD national conference came along, his proposal was rejected. He protested to the decision-maker's superior, arguing, "I bet it was one of the top 10 rated sessions of the whole conference." They checked. It was. He was back on the program, but to a much smaller group.

He told me the session wasn't as electric as the first time, but afterwards, two representatives from Digital Electronics said their boss had attended last time and wanted to train Steve as one of their regular consultants. Every employee at Digital would be receiving diversity training. Part of his contract would be to devote two days of training per month. That was enough to help him back on his feet, but it also opened doors to Shearson/AmericanExpress, Chevron and other major employers. The man who hesitated to travel was soon a prominent national consultant making a six-figure income. And most years, that has continued.

Since then Steve has earned a Meritorious Service Award for the Presidents' Committee on Employment of People with Disabilities and the Multi-Cultural Network Trainer of the Year by the American Society for Training and Development. He served as Board Chair for the Oregon Commission for the Blind.

Long an avid runner, Steve was honored as a Torchbearer for the 1996 Olympics and has participated in marathons. He even has his own "Hood to Coast" team, a two-day relay of nearly 200 miles from Mount Hood to Seaside, Oregon.

He found a loving woman to be his wife and is now the father of three with grandchildren, too.

Steve didn't envision all the traumatic situations he would face, but he believed in himself and he found ways to make a lasting difference with his work and his life.

 - - - - -

Glen Fahs, PhD, has been a coach and leader for decades in the fields of training, resiliency, continuing education, change and transition. He has high-level training experience in government, nonprofit and the private sector and has taught for 12 colleges and universities. He has served on several boards, including currently on the Al Siebert Resiliency Center board.

Your #1 Most Important Resilience Mindset

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by Michelle Atlas, Certified Resiliency Facilitator and Resiliency Facilitator Mentor

One of my favorite parts of my business, in addition to working directly with my coaching clients, is writing about principles that have changed my life, and can change yours. If you're a creative, spirit-driven person, you know it is crucial to spend time in inspiring, spirit-feeding activities. It's how you remember who you are, so you can keep expressing the real you and serving at the highest level.

Practicing what fosters your optimal well-being strengthens your resilience. Resilience enables us to gracefully navigate non-stop challenge and change. It is at the heart of the success of every thriving, creative human being.

I am a longtime student of resilience, having lived through my own share of losses and challenges, and as I am certified in the work of the late Al Siebert, PhD, and now certify others in his work as well. Of the many powerful resilience principles that have emerged, there are 3 that tell the story of how I and many of my clients have thrived through countless challenges in business and life.

Whether regarding money mastery, communication, relationships, well-being, business strategy, purpose... there is an goldmine of wisdom to be discovered, moment to moment from what I am calling the "3 Resilience Power Principles."

Here's the first:

"I am 100% responsible for how I experience my life."

What does this really mean?

You are committed to converting every life experience into an asset. We cannot always control external events, but we can always take responsibility for our response to them. You are willing to ask yourself, with brutal honesty, where you are, from"very much so" to "ever so slightly" holding someone, or something outside of yourself responsible for your finances, your well-being, your business, or communication.

It means that you own where you are co-creating an experience you do not want, and you begin to hold yourself compassionately accountable to create the change you do want.

This is the opposite of living as a victim. It's how we become the masters of our own destiny and begin to live a truly empowered life. It's how we create and receive the abundance that is our birthright.

When we hold anyone or anything responsible for our happiness, our fulfillment, our bank account ...we are living in a victim consciousness. This is the way to go nowhere fast.

How do you know?

When you hear yourself repeating the same story over and over again, about something that you wish were different. When you find yourself longing for something for days, months, years, while believing that it is unattainable for you.

What does 100% responsibility look like, feel like?

It is not for the faint of heart, however it is powerful, life-changing, empowering, liberating and highly creative! It means telling the truth to yourself, having courageous conversations, taking risks and chances to change your life and then experiencing your life actually changing!

Here is an example: I once experienced a flirtation with someone who worked in a grocery store. I got tired of experiencing the inappropriateness and limits of trying to get to know him in his workplace. I knew that he could never ask me out without risking his job. After months, and months, and months, I felt frustrated and disempowered and stuck. So I summoned my courage and asked him to have coffee with me. Within a matter of hours he was standing inside my house and we were going out to a wonderful restaurant for dinner. It felt like a miracle (or like Star Trek:)). It was simple. I owned what I wanted, took action consistent with that and created an entirely new reality. That's what 100% responsibility for communication looks like.

Start noticing.

100% self-responsibility is never self blame. It's the opposite. It's saying, my life is too precious and too important to spend one more moment feeling unworthy of my greatest potential and denying the world my gifts. It's knowing that life is happening for you, with you, through you, and not to you. And yes, it's saying stop fooling around.

When I quickly changed my reality, that day in the grocery store, I felt like a turbojet, energy coursing through me. It was one of those "I get it!" in my core moments. I knew then, that I could create anything.

"I am 100% responsible for how I experience my life."

Ask yourself

  • What would it look like if I take100% responsibility for my relationship with money?Then take just one, small, doable step.
  • What one missing conversation will I now take 100% responsibility for?
  • What one step will I take toward 100% responsibility for my well-being?

Hint: (Think self-forgiveness as a starting point. Self-forgiveness is a form of self-responsibility. It is the master key to the next level of freedom and self-expression for you, interesting right? More on that another time. :)).

Apply for a "Your Resilient Success" FREE strategy session

We will:

  • Identify the invisible saboteur of your success.
  • Discover where you are merely surviving, so you can begin to thrive now.
  • Transform your greatest challenge into your next inspiring and creative step.
    You will be amazed at the clarity and inspiration you will come away with!
    Apply Here:

Please share with colleagues and friends! To your resilient success, Michelle

About: Michelle Atlas helps creative, spirit-centered, female entrepreneurs, own their true worth and become fully visible in their businesses and lives, so they can create wealth on their own terms. She also teaches US federal government leaders how to strengthen their resilience and mentors other coaches and trainers to become resiliency facilitators for the Al Siebert Resiliency Center. With a huge transformational toolbox and laser-focused intuition, she helps you discover courage you did not know you have, and create success you never thought possible, in finances, purpose, well-being and relationships. She is an ICF Credentialed Coach, a Newfield Certified Coach, a Certified Resiliency Facilitator, and a Sacred Money Archetypes Certified Coach. With a lifetime dedicated to her own growth and spirituality, Michelle loves helping you become the creator of your own destiny. © Al Siebert Resiliency Center
PO Box 505
Portland, Oregon 97207 USA

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