A letter of hope and resilience.

Psychological resilience in war conditions: individual and national dimensions.

Oleh Romanchuk

Director of the Ukrainian Institute of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and the UCU Institute of Mental Health; Child psychiatrist, Psychotherapist of the Family Circle Center

Psychological resilience (endurance, resilience) – the ability to go through life’s trials, whilst maintaining mental health and personal integrity. For both scientists and professionals this is an incredibly important topic for discussions, research, scientific conferences. But now it’s not about this. Now we have a war – and we are strengthening our collective resilience. Because we need it so much, not only to cope with all the stresses and trials of the horrors of war, but to win the war together.


When the enemy’s strategy is to frighten us with the power of his aggression, to cause us panic, to sow despair, to finally force us to surrender or flee, our response to him is our resilience. Individually. Nationally. Solidarity is universal – it is all the forces of Good on this earth.


So, this will not be a long scientific article about everything we know from sustainability research, but rather a brief overview of key ingredients to help us consciously strengthen it in a time of war.


Sustainability is always about a sense of values ​​and meaning. And that is why – we repeat to ourselves now and again – with us the Truth, with us – God, with us – Victory. We are on our land and fighting for our freedom and for our free future. And in support we also have as a legacy from the Cossack times, an incredible saying “If you hear the Truth in yourself – you are invincible!”. This is so important for us now – because the Truth is the weapon that the enemy does not have – its inexhaustible supply is in our hearts – and it is the weapon that makes us invincible! This connection with the Truth must be maintained. Only then do we realize that every step we take is part of a great journey and it makes sense – it becomes a source of energy for our progress and gives insurmountable perseverance to every movement…


Stability is also always about the energy of light, the energy of love – because it is actually the greatest meaning. And that is why we remind ourselves that we strive to be Warriors of Light, we do not want to be like the enemy through inhuman actions. It is this love that gives our soldiers the courage to go into battle without fear of death… It must also be kept clean – because in response to all barbarism, the desire for fierce blind revenge flares up so easily and that is why this is a light request “And with a pure heart? – around them, post your angels, and observe their purity…”


And resilience is about the strength of our unity and mutual support… This is confirmed in unison by all scientific research: our resilience is based on the depth of our relationship (at the family level, at the community, people, humanity) level, mutual devotion and care, the ability to cultivate trust, not only dare to trust, but also work to be trustworthy – and this is probably one of the lessons that is most difficult to teach us at the national level – but it is our challenge, our invitation – and we are good, we are learning! So now, you see how many people show incredible courage and endurance, honesty and generosity, professionalism and humanity – a growing sense of faith in their people – and hear how deeply this resonates in every cell of Symonenko: “My people are! My people will always be!”


Sustainability is associated with a sense of belonging – we are strong when we feel part of something bigger, holistic, longer than our individual life – to be part of the Great History. That is why now we feel the Cossacks, the Sich Riflemen, Shevchenko, Franko, Lesya Ukrainka, Stus, Andrei Sheptytsky and countless heroes of all generations standing behind us, whom we call “Heroes of Glory!”. We realize what a gift it is and what an honour it is to stand on their shoulders and continue to work together for the sake of future generations… Their resilience, their life achievements – can become our great resource – let’s draw from it! This resilience becomes even stronger when our Great History is not limited to national history,


And we must also be reminded, because it is so easy to forget, especially when the war is over (and it will inevitably happen) – that in this unity is our strength, and it is very great, because acting harmoniously together we can do much, much more, than each individual can – and that’s why we share, watch and are inspired by different stories from the past and present. Evidence of this can be seen in this small village in the Chernihiv region, where the united community forced rows of Russian tanks to reverse and drive away… When we are so united, full of truth and courage – we are truly invincible… And this power becomes even greater when we are united with all the world forces of Good and the international community…


Sustainability is also about choice. It is not an innate or individual quality that is inherent in individuals. It is more like muscles – we are all born with them, but they grow when we use them. And when we choose to respond from a position of resilience, we become more resilient. When we choose to respond wisely and wisely in trials, we become the same. When we are in danger – to act bravely (despite fear, because fear is natural, but “courage is not the absence of fear, but the ability to act according to values ​​against fear”), we grow in courage… And so, we repeat to ourselves now, like a battle mantra: “Our task and our choice: to endure, endure, win! Whatever it is and no matter how long it takes – to endure, endure, win! “


Sustainability is also about hope. It’s not just about optimism that “everything will be fine tomorrow.” We are aware that the road can be long, and in order to win the war, we may have to lose more than one battle and suffer painful losses – the real hope is that in the end the truth will surely win!


Hope is what calls for “action” – so resilience is about effective, wise, balanced action. Everyone has their own, everyone has their own place in the great story… But it’s not about “sitting down and waiting for the news” – it’s about taking your place in the story every day – for an old grandmother it may be that she prays for the soldiers, for the mother who takes care of the children, for the doctor in the hospital, the baker in the bakery, the defender who is fighting…


Persistence is also about the ability to think clearly and have wise and enlightened thoughts. Because helpless thoughts can so easily trigger an internal tornado of panic, despair, or anger. And sometimes those thoughts are not needed much – because when we act, and when on the battlefield – often more helpful are short prayers or inspiring “mantras”. Here is one of them – from the lips of Defense Minister Alexei Reznik – “Darkness will recede. Dawn is near. Let’s keep the system… »


Stability is not about steadfastness and infallibility. Rather, the ability to fall and stand up, admit mistakes and correct, learn from them – humbly again and again…


It is also about the ability to regulate emotions – feelings are important – they communicate, unite, mobilize and give energy to action. Anger gives strength to fight, anxiety – caution in a situation of danger. But sometimes feelings are dysregulated and anger “breaks the roof”, in despair we can “slip” – so resilience is also about emotional competence, the ability to understand and respond wisely to emotional signals, but also to regulate them when they are wrong or excessive. Now we have all had a “master class” – and we are learning to “ground” ourselves in spite of excessive anxiety, “breathe deeply” and bring down the “degree of anger”, share the sadness of loss…


Stability is not about a state of “relaxation” and calm. In conditions of war, there is no “technique” on how to “unleash” and feel complete peace when cruise missiles fall on your country and people die. It is about accepting suffering, the ability to be with it – and to respond in accordance with your values.


This is also about the role of positive emotional states. They are extremely important, because we all know well how good laughter and sincere joy relieves tension and restores the soul, how important it is to see beauty – to admire, to touch (and no matter how strange it sounds, but in the dark days of war this beauty is seen more – as the dark night of the star is more visible – first of all the incredible beauty of people, our people). It is also about the ability to “generate” such positive states – song, joke, dance – and the ability to share them, because “shared joy is multiplied”…


And, of course, resilience is about a disciplined rhythm of self-care and recovery, it is especially important in conditions of chronic stress and uncertainty – and about home, and about sleep, and about food, and about physical activity, the already mentioned resource activities, time for silence and vacation. Even short. Dosage news. The ability to save strength for those battles that are really important, and to have that energy not for one day, but for as long as it will take to win…

So, we have a road ahead of us. It will change and is already changing us – in it we are born and reborn – not only for ourselves but also for the world! And we know for sure – no one can tell us otherwise – to live, to create our way back to our Ukraine, to create it with all the love and courage of our heart – a free country of free people, part of a great and bright family of nations who choose to create a civilization of peace and love on earth!



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