Resilience is a major determinant of the rate at which people recover from traumatic life experiences. Flexibility is a major factor that victims of different traumatic events, such as domestic violence, should have to lead a normal life in the aftermath of violence. Spirituality is an important aspect in resilience.
It has been shown that spiritual people are more resilient than those who are not. In this paper, the discussion centers on the concept of resilience, spirituality, and its application in the aftermath of domestic violence. Dees’ Resilience Life Cycle is also put into perspective to help in explaining how people can gain resilience and hence the ability to withstand life’s tribulations.
All people experience major disruptions in the course of their lives at various points. Such events can push them to the wall. In many instances, during such disruptions, it is easy to feel that life has been unfair and almost blowing up. For instance, some of the major disruptions may present themselves in the form of financial difficulties, the loss of loved family members, sicknesses, injuries, and/or trauma from war, especially to soldiers and their families.
For instance, research that focuses on people who have histories of emotional, sexual, and physical abuse, learning disabilities, natural disasters, major illnesses, loss of loved ones, and war shows that some people virtually experience any ill effects from trauma. This realization has led to researchers to investigate the nature of resilience.
Considerable research shows that resilience is a characteristic that is deeply embedded in the heart to determine one’s mental and emotional health. Recently, research on spirituality and resilience has shown that the two are closely linked and that people who have a strong spirituality show more ability to recover from trauma relative to those who have less spirituality. This paper discusses the concept of spirituality and resilience and its application and relevance in the aftermath of domestic violence.
Resilience and Spirituality
Resilience is defined as the ability or capacity to recover quickly from traumatic or difficult events in life. In the context of this paper, resilience will majorly indicate the capacity to recover from domestic violence. According to Smith, Webber, and DeFrain, (2013), resilience refers to a dynamic process where individuals use the available personal characteristics and ecological resources to face events of life as they unfold.
These personal characteristics and ecological resources are derived from the interactions between personal attributes and social support structures in the community, community resources, and health promoting interventions. Other factors that promote resilience include family members, friends, community, governance, and culture.
According to Bradford (2012), resilience is marked by various characteristics that include having a sense of hope and trust, ability to tolerate pain and distressing emotions, interpreting distressing and traumatic events in a new light, a strong sense of control over one’s destiny, self-reflection and insight, and a meaningful social support system.
It also includes the ability to deal with emotional pain and/or having a wide range of interests in one’s life. The availability or lack thereof of these characteristics separates people who have resilience and those who do not demonstrate it and hence the ability to easily bounce back after traumatic events or lack thereof of such ability.
On the other hand, spirituality refers to a deep sense of interconnectedness and aliveness. It may be seen as a sense of connection to something that is bigger than oneself. It involves the search for the meaning of life. For a very long time, spirituality was linked to the process of transformation at a personal level in accordance with religious teachings. Since the 19th century, spirituality has been separated from religion. It is used to refer to subjective experiences and psychological growth.
However, the linkage of spirituality to religion is still very relevant and indeed even more prominent in the present-day era. For instance, in Christianity, spirituality is greatly linked to the desire to emulate the image of God and Christ. According to Smith et al. (2013), the existing research strongly links spirituality to positive life outcomes, including extreme life disruptions.
In another review of research on religion and human flourishing, Rymar (2009) found that those who engage in religion had a more sense of happiness and satisfaction in life. They reported less cases of depression in addition to a tendency to recover fast from loss and life crises as compared to nonreligious people. According to Dees (2011), Christianity plays a crucial role in guiding people towards resilience in difficult times.
Drawing heavily from personal experiences as a soldier in the battlefield, Dees (2011) has come to face with what life disruptions from war can do to an individual. Harmed with this experience as well as drawing from other areas of research in the topic of resilience and spirituality, Dees (2011) makes important recommendations that are linked to the bible teachings to guide people on a path to resilience and bouncing back after traumatic events.
The linkage between religion and spirituality and its relevance in today’s world cannot be ignored. For instance, a research on religion and quality of life for patients with debilitating diseases such as Schizophrenia found that people who demonstrate a positive religious coping had a better quality of life than their counterparts who felt that God was punishing them (Glasson, 2009). The study concluded that religion played an important role in the lives of a big number of patients and that it was at the peril of the patient if psychiatrics ignored such beliefs in their treatment.
According to Rymar (2009), consideration of such beliefs can have a great bearing on treatment and even on the patient’s response to the treatment. Despite the overwhelming support for the linkage between religion and spirituality, critics point out that such evidence in research is inconclusive (Smith et al., 2013). Its association with health is weak (Fleming & Ledogar, 2008).
Resilience and spirituality play a very important part in coping and dealing with issues, which families face in their daily lives. One of the major problems that families are encountering even in the 21st century is domestic violence. According to Wilson (2009), violence at home is a major public health problem where women and children suffer the most from its effects. In children, the effects of such violence are long-term and dependent on the timing, type, and frequency of exposure to violence.
Further, such effects occur in children, even if they are not the direct victims of the violence. They are close to the victim who in most cases is their mother. Since domestic violence occurs in a familial setting, the affected family members are marred with danger, which can have a long impact on their lives (Aldridge, 2013). Parents may be unable to offer safety since they are the perpetrators or the victims in some way.
The ability to offer care is restrained by various reasons. The consequences of domestic violence may include family breakups and lifelong injuries among other repercussions (Aldridge, 2013). Further, homes that encounter aggression are likely to have other problems, for instance deficiency, joblessness and drug addiction, and psychopathology.
These tough situations are associated with heightened danger of chronic hostility while the aggression boosts the probability of such situations in an iterative style. Just like other life stressing issues, recovering from domestic violence can be a very difficult process, especially since violence can have lifelong repercussions on the victims. Further, some people show more resilience and ability to recover from such violence faster than others do (Dees, 2011).
The main question on this paper is on whether spirituality can help victims to recover from violence and consequently lead a normal life. In other words, the concern is on whether spirituality plays a role in developing resilience in people who are experiencing domestic violence. If it does, in what ways can others be helped to recover from such a traumatic life event?
Resilience and Spirituality in the Aftermath of Domestic Violence
Domestic violence is also referred to as intimate partner violence since it mostly occurs between people who are in an intimate relationship such as marriage. The ability to recover from domestic violence is a key determinant of the quality of life an individual will lead after the violence (Stoll, Michaelson, & Seaford, 2012).
The aftermath of domestic violence is marred by mixed feelings that differ from one individual to another. For instance, many victims report horror and nervousness, which are regular effects of treacherous circumstances, although they may turn out to be enduring expressive conditions that require specialized interventions.
Memories of traumatic events at the hands of people who were supposed to protect, love, and care can trigger and immobilize domestic violence survivors (Wilson, 2009). If children are involved, the situation may lead to hyperactivity, aggressiveness, and development of phobias, which may hinder the children’s ability to have a fulfilling life. According to Dees (2011), experiencing fear and anxiety is a common emotion after traumatic events.
Dees (2011) draws heavily from the bible to help victims to withstand such emotions. In this case, he quotes Joshua 1: 9 (New International Version), which says that, “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go” (New International Version).”
In this verse, Dees (2011) points out a power that is beyond our understanding of fears and that fearing is not abnormal. However, it is important for those who are in the aftermath of domestic violence to understand that they are not alone and that the ‘war’ they are experiencing within themselves against fear and anxiety is already known. God who is the commander of their lives will see them through the difficult times.
Domestic violence victims also experience shame and guilt. They blame themselves for the violence they are experiencing. The most important step towards recovery is to understand that the victim or survivor is never to blame for the acts of the perpetrator. When one harbors such feelings, it is easy to develop a negative self-image and distrust for others and the world. In this case, Dees (2011) encourages survivors of traumatic events that difficulties in life are normal and that while it is easy to have strong emotions, they (feelings) do not last. A brighter day is coming when such sorrows will be no more. For instance, the bible says, “…weeping may endure for a night.
But joy comes in the morning” (New International Version Psalms 30: 5). In this case, it is evident that no one is immune to tough times. People should not feel guilty or ashamed when their turn for tough times comes. They should instead look beyond the tough times since such times do not last forever.
They should anticipate the joys that will come in the future when they overcome the difficulties of the present moment. While Dees (2011) draws his experience from the battlefield as a soldier, his text is highly applicable to all traumatic events that push individuals to the edge of despair.
For instance, soldiers experience grief and depression from the bloody experiences they face in the combat. In the same way, the home can turn from a safe haven to a bloody place where loved ones are threatened with death and serious injuries on a frequent basis. Sorrow and despair may result in mood of defeat, unhappiness, and bleakness.
They result in weeping moments, despondency, and abandonment. At that moment, it is important to turn to the teachings of the bible to understand what it says to believers when they face situations that lead to helplessness and despair.
According to Dees (2011), the scripture offers the best comfort and resilience when people feel lost and not sure of where they are going anymore. For instance, the bible says that, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight” (New International Version Proverbs 3: 5-6).
From the above discussion, the main argument is that spirituality is an important aspect that determines the rate at which victims of traumatic events such as domestic violence recover. A study by Culliford (2010) confirms that the existing national studies have overwhelmingly demonstrated that non-participation in religious activities greatly increase the risk of suicide by over 400%.
Further, a significant number of studies that address the link between suicide and religion confirm the existence of lower rates of suicide among individuals engage more in faith-based activities in relation to people who do not participate actively in religious activities. Of these studies on religious beliefs and practices, Christianity has been specifically linked to reduced rates of depression.
Exclusively, receiving a religiously oriented cognitive behavioral therapy is linked to reduced symptoms of post-treatment depression and lower rates of recidivism to depression. Spirituality is greatly linked to resilience in many studies that have focused on spirituality and resilience. Their conclusions are not far from the truth.
For an individual to recover from a tough moment, the first step that he or she needs to adopt involves the building of resilience. Such a person has to develop flexibility such that he or she is willing to accommodate any inconvenience positively. Once such accommodation is established, the individual can now face the situation by developing mechanisms of learning to adapt it until it is over. Before the storm as Dees (2011) calls it, life is usually good with little stress and high levels of contentment.
For persons who are in intimate partnerships such as marriage, this stage connotes the period when the two people are happy. They look forward to a happy, secure, and fulfilling life ahead. However, life is not always perfect and/or without sorrow. Eventually, storms arise. Weathering the storm in a domestic situation may mean many things, including financial difficulties, ill health, and violence. After a long period of weathering the storm, the aftermath leads to learning and adapting to have a fulfilling life after the difficult times.
Learning and adapting requires one to bounce back based on the resilience level that such an individual has. According to Dees (2011), any Christianity expects these stages of life as part of the ‘season for everything’ that is found in book of Ecclesiastes in the Holy Bible. In this case, Dees (2011) asserts that resilience in people who follow the teachings of Jesus is high because they get great inspiration from the fact that there are no surprises in life and that experiencing traumatic events signifies the arrival of such events in the ‘calendar’ of one’s life.
Further, being spiritual provides one with the ability to recognize that no tribulation is beyond any person as evidenced in the Bible, “No temptation has seized you except what is common to man” (New International Version 1Corinthians 10: 13a). Lastly, the bible assures believers that when tempted, God will provide a way out. Consequently, it is in the minds of those who believe that such traumatic events are only temporary.
A brighter future awaits them. A good example from the Bible is the story of Job who despite being a strong believer and a worshipper of God, experienced great tribulations where he lost all his wealth and children (Oser, Scarlett, & Bucher, 2006). His wife taunted him to abuse God and die. However, Job knew that the challenges he was facing were only a passing cloud and that the Lord had the power to return an individual to his previous glory or even higher. Job showed a lot of resilience.
Afterwards, he overcame his tribulations. In the same light, Jesus who was tempted by Satan, rejected by his people, and finally crucified provides a great inspiration to Christians who are passing through difficulties. In the New International Version, Jesus tells his disciples that they will face tribulations (John 16: 33). However, since he conquered them (challenges), they (followers) need to be assured that they too will prevail over any difficult situation.
In each stage of resilience cycle, spirituality is important. It can guide individuals to have a fulfilling life as Dees (2011) puts it. For instance, in the first stage of the cycle, spirituality offers one an opportunity to know that the joys of the current period are desirable, expected, but not permanent. To people who might be experiencing domestic violence, understanding this stage allows them to have the courage of not letting violence take them down when it arises.
Although violence is not acceptable and justifiable in whatever way and that it is contrary to the teaching of the bible that calls for love and genuine concern between spouses, when it happens, having spirituality allows victims to easily overcome its consequences and where possible find ways of addressing it with a sober mind. 65% of all violence cases at home are not reported (Stoll et al., 2012).
However, having faith and spirituality gives victims the courage to seek help, as they are not ashamed and in fact condemn such acts. When the violence leads to the breaking up of the family, spirituality allows individuals to recover, learn from the events that have occurred in their lives, and/or lead a normal and fulfilling life.
How does one then become resilient if it is such a key factor in determining the ability to overcome life challenges and traumatic events such as domestic events? According to Fleming and Ledogar (2008), there are several steps towards this path. In this path, spirituality is an important aspect, which guides people to a quick recovery from traumatic events. The first step is building positive beliefs in life. For instance, for victims of domestic violence, it is important to ensure that self-esteem is not taken away by the violence that they experience.
According to Dees (2011), spirituality ensures that people understand that they have a purpose in this world, which cannot be taken away by traumatic events. It is therefore important to have positive self-beliefs as part of building resilience after experiencing such events in life. Secondly, the most important step to resilience is finding one’s purpose in life after experiencing traumatic events.
For instance, the period that follows domestic violence may require people to be engaged in some hobbies that they have never tried before or any other activity that may advance their purpose in life. Having a purpose allows one to set goals that he/she likes to achieve, regardless of the challenges of life. Another important step towards resilience and recovery after domestic violence is the development of a strong social network.
According to Dees (2011), such social networks may include close family members, support groups of domestic violence victims, spiritual mentors, and friends. Such support networks are important in helping one to recover from traumatic events and/or lead a normal life. Lastly, embracing change is an important step. For victims of domestic violence, these changes may include moving away from home and/or changing jobs and other activities that will take the victim away from the abusers.
In conclusion, there is a high link between spirituality and resilience. As evidenced in the paper, high levels of spirituality connote higher resilience and ability to recovery quickly from traumatic events. Domestic violence presents one of the major traumatic experiences that many people undergo.
When not well addressed, it may lead to serious and lifelong repercussions on the victims and their families. However, the teachings of the Bible as discussed by Dees (2011) present important lessons on how believing can help people to recover quickly from such events and thereafter lead a normal life. In other words, every individual has the capacity to bounce back, regardless of what life presents to him or her.
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