Part b: survivor resiliency and biphasic traits

By Al Siebert, Ph. D. , author of The Resiliency Advantage RESEARCH RESULTS: Siebert, Al. “The Survivor Personality,” International Mensa Journal, January, 1967. Siebert, Al. The Survivor Personality, Practical Psychology Press, 1994. Siebert, Al. The Survivor Personality, Berkeley/Perigee, 1996. Siegel, Bernie, M. D. Love, Medicine, and Miracles, Harper and Row, 1986. Years of research into the inner nature of highly resilient survivors has created a solid understanding of human resiliency and how it develops. To develop resiliency, the keys qualities are: Playful, childlike curiosity.

Ask lots of questions; want to know how things work. Play with new developments. Enjoy themselves as children do. Have a good time almost anywhere. Wonder about things, experiment, make mistakes, get hurt, and laugh. Ask: “What is different now? What if I did this? Who can answer my questions? What is funny about this? ”  Constantly learn from experience. Rapidly assimilate new or unexpected experiences and facilitate being changed by them. Ask “What is the lesson here? Adapt quickly. Very mentally and emotionally flexible. Comfortable with contradictory personality qualities.

Can both be strong and gentle, sensitive and tough, logical and intuitive, calm and emotional, serious and playful, and so forth. The more the better. Can think in negative ways to reach positive outcomes. “What could go wrong, so it can be avoided? ”  Have solid self-esteem and self-confidence. Self-esteem is how you feel about yourself. It determines how much you learn after something goes wrong. It allows you to receive praise and compliments. Self-confidence is your reputation with yourself. It allows you to take risks without waiting for approval or reassurance from others.

You expect to handle new situations well because on your past successes. Have good friendships, loving relationships. Talking with friends and family diminishes the impact of difficulties and increases feelings of self-worth and self-confidence.  Express feelings honestly. Experience and can express anger, love, dislike, appreciation, grief–the entire range of human emotions honestly and openly.  Expect things to work out well. Deep optimism guided by internal moral, values and standards. High tolerance for ambiguity and uncertainty. Has a synergistic effect, brings stability to crises and chaos.

Read others with empathy. See things through the perspectives of others, even antagonists. Use intuition, creative hunches. Accept subliminal perception and intuition as valid, useful sources of information. Defend yourself well. Avoid and block attacks, fight back. See through and side-step cons, “games,” and manipulations that others attempt. Find allies, resources, and support systems. Have a talent for serendipity. Learning lessons in the school of life is the antidote to feeling victimized. May 2007 “EXCEPTIONAL SURVIVORS” AND “SURVIVOR PERSONALITY”.

Dr. Al Siebert observed and discovered that some people possess certain personality traits in which they are more comfortable living with changes, crises, and traumatic events and thrive in their evolving personalities and nature. Curious as why people emerged stronger and better by adverse experiences, Dr. Siebert concluded that mentally healthy, flexible, resilient, synergistic people gain strength and knowledge from the crisis experience. Years of research studying survivors led to the identification of a certain personality characteristics. Dr.Siebert’s observation of these certain characteristics lead to the introduction of what he now classifies as a “survivor personality”.

The phrases “exceptional survivors,” “exceptionally mentally healthy,” “survivor personalities,” and “synergistic personality,” are terms becoming interchangeable in the new vocabulary of a holistic being and healer. Because health and illness (physical, mental and emotional) are subjective personal interpretations, Dr. Siebert uses unique criteria to define “survivor personality. ” He lists the below four criteria for survivor personality.

The criteria being: ? Survived a major life challenge, i. e. weather phenomenon, auto crashes, early parental deaths, war and like situations, socio-economic trials; ? Surmounted such crisis in part through chosen personal effort; ? discovery of previously unknown capacities and abilities; and ? Find appreciation, value and merit in the experience and themselves. A good indicator that a person meets the four criteria is the statement, “I would never willingly go through anything like that again, but it was the best thing that ever happened to me. ” (Siebert, page 220).

Exceptional survivors are puzzling when first analyzed. Women tend to possess more of the complex traits comprised by survivors (Siebert, page 36). Sensitive Tough Strong Gentle Cowardly Courageous Mature Playful Humorous Serious Distant Friendly Self-confident Self-critical Trusting Cautious Dependent Independent Impulsive Well-organized Happy Discontent Cooperative Rebellious Proud Humble Selfish Unselfish Involved Detached Lazy Hard-working Logical Creative Calm Emotional Shy Bold Loving Angry Consistent Unpredictable Messy Neat Optimistic Pessimistic.

Source: Siebert, page 27 The traditional psychological thinking classifies the above traits as bipolar. Individuals are considered to have either one trait or its opposite, as being introverted or extroverted, for example. Yet most “survivors” show characteristics of both introversion and extroversion, depending on the situation they are in. I believe you capture an extremely important point when you write about the impact of context. Regardless of our characteristics or skills, context has an enormous impact on how we present, mobilize and organize our responses.

The specific pairs of opposite traits that develop are less important than the number of pairs present. The longer the list of biphasic traits contained in a personality, the more diverse the response can be for that person in dealing with the situation at hand. Biphasic personality traits increase survivability by allowing a person to respond in one way or its opposite in any situation, rather than strictly one sided. Often, we are unaware of how much flexibility we possess and how long is our list of biphasic characteristics until a situation emerges, e.g. we are diagnosed with a significant illness.

People who interact in survivor/synergistic ways also possess a child-like playfulness in situations. Adults and Adolescences who retained this inner child capacity develop a complex, unique, synergistic personality. They constantly learn daily experiences. They have a different perspective to adversity and expect things to eventually turn out well. This different perspective/synergy is the key to converting any situation from emotionally toxic, for some, into a great moment of growth for themselves.

They thrive in situations distressing to others because they learn valuable lessons from bad experiences. Biphasic patterns in the body are possible because of flexor and extensor muscles and their work through out the body. Moshe Feldenkrais, the originator of movement technique, observed physical movement and concluded “…reversibility is the mark of voluntary movement. An action that cannot be reversed is involuntary. ” Feldenkraus deduced that “if you always respond one way and never the opposite, you will sometimes be helpless to stop yourself from reflexively doing or saying something” (Page 36).

An interesting perspective which makes intuitive sense to me. At the inner core of these exceptional survivors is an inner motivation or driving force to have the situation resolve for the highest and greatest good for themselves and others. The driving force of “good synergy” is an essential, on-point, and motivational principle in the lives of exceptional survivors. This inner desire helps in explaining why these people bring calm to unstable conditions and can improve the situation as no others can. Abraham Maslow recognized that self-actualizing people transcend being “merely healthy.

” In his list of “Motivations and Gratifications of Self-Actualizing People”, he recites the following: “They seem to like happy endings, good completions. They try to set things right, to clean up bad situations. They manage somehow simultaneously to love the world as it is and try to improve it. In all cases, there was some hope that people, nature, and society could be improved. They enjoy improving things. They enjoy bringing about law and order in the chaotic situation, or in the messy or confused situation, or in the dirty and unclean situation. They like doing things well.

They enjoy greater efficiency, making an operation more neat, compact, simple, faster, less expensive, turning out a better product, doing with less parts, a smaller number of operations, less clumsiness, less effort, more foolproof, safer, more ‘elegant,’ less laborious” (Page 43 and 44). Survivors exhibit many indicators suggesting a progression to higher level of living. Such people possess: ? Great empathy, even opponents and adversaries; ? Acknowledge and accept subliminal perception and intuition as valid, useful sources of information; ? Have exceptional timing in the situation-being in the right place at the right time;?

Recognize and see situations differently and offer suggestions and take action, often in creative ways; ? Promptly assimilate new experiences; ? Grow smarter and enjoy life more as proceed through life; ? Enjoy healthy psyche comprised of opposite traits; ? Feel at ease in strange situations, which may frighten or bewilder others; ? Show surprising self-confidence, sustained strength, and hardiness in adverse circumstances. ? Have a strong optimistic sense of self; ? Strong inner morals and ethics; ? Successfully rely on inner resources in chaotic environments; and ?

Have serendipity by converting accidents and misfortune into good luck. (page 4- Exceptional mental health: the synergistic personality) Exceptional survivors have a strong need for things to work well. They interact with people and situations in synergistic ways. They sustain in adulthood the playful curiosity of children. Their personalities are self-discovered rather than imposed or trained. They learn valuable lessons from difficult experiences. They have a strong inner identity, are self-confident, and are great at accessing inner resources like creativity, intuition, and empathy.

Life consistently gets better, richer, and more fulfilling as life goes on. At first, it was a quest to comprehend the personality traits of the survivors. I then realized the critical factor to this survivor personality depends on the response to the situation rather than on a fixed personality response. Flexibility, mentally and emotionally, on all planes of existence is a distinctive quality in exceptional survivors. I perceive a connection or correlation between these biphasic traits exhibited by exceptional survivors and the correct personality, which would seem to be most conducive to the healing arts.

The ability to see a chaotic/stressful situation with empathy; recognize and see each situation differently and offer suggestions and take action, in creative ways; acknowledge and accept subliminal perception and intuition; have exceptional timing; feel at ease in unknown situations; possess a strong optimistic sense of self; have serendipity; is vital to anyone within the field of healing. More importantly, a shift is occurring in using the creative powers of thought or intention and the interdependency among us.

The health consciousness shift is already starting but healers hold an additional responsibility and need to continue the evolution of all medicine to a higher level. If, we, as the next generation of healers could see clearly new approaches, new methods, operate from a field of higher energy and enlightenment then we, as a human race will reap the rewards on all planes of existence. The survivor’s innate desire to help brings calm to changeable conditions and improves the situation as no others can. We, survivors, are emerging because the new consciousness demands new approaches for the highest and greatest good.

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