Celeste Owens
Psychologist

Celeste Owens

A motivational speaker and licensed psychologist with a PhD in counseling psychology from the University of Pittsburgh.

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Learning about resilience

Q: "Precious," a critically acclaimed new movie starring Gabourey Sidibe, chronicles the journey of an abused 16-year-old girl struggling to overcome her parents' brutality. What can we learn from those who are able to survive terrible circumstances? What's the most inspiring survival story you've encountered?

Early in my career I worked as a school-based therapist in several Baltimore City Public Schools. Ready for a challenge, I was determined to make a difference in the lives of these extraordinary children. I soon discovered the needs far exceeded the resources. Disillusioned, I desired to give up -- but wouldn't.

In my search for solutions, I discovered the literature on resilience -- one's ability to successfully adapt despite challenging or threatening circumstances. The research indicated that most children who experienced trauma would grow to be productive citizens.

What a testament to the human spirit. I eventually learned that my job was not to fix these children, but to partner with them for a finite space in time. One such partnership stands out in my mind.

For a period of about a year, I worked with a young man who had endured horrific abuses. He didn't seem to care about anything or anyone. In fact, while attending the school, his behavior deteriorated; he was suspended many times and his foster mother was ready to give up. Our efforts seemed in vain.

Fast forward five years. I am walking through the food court at a local mall and I hear, "Hey, Miss Owens." I turn to see this same student standing behind a grill. About as subtle as a ton of bricks the first words out of my mouth are: "You work?"

Yes, he worked -- and so will many other children that endure abuse. The key is love and care from adults willing to assist in their healing.

Adversity is the best teacher -- and those who succeed find meaning from life's many challenges.

By Celeste Owens  |  November 19, 2009; 9:48 AM ET  | Category:  survival as success Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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Such a hopeful timely article. Resilience is real.

Posted by: imatthew | November 24, 2009 9:03 PM
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Resilience speaks to the heart of the human condition. I've found that if we are open to humble ourselves with others, we will begin to grasp this astounding truth. It isn't until we focus on serving others that we can learn this. Great article which I think soundly parallels the storyline of "Precious" with the inspiration lives of those around us.

Posted by: joyforrest | November 23, 2009 1:17 PM
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I think it is important to realize we have no idea what people may have experienced during childhood. We need to try and be patient with others when we see them "acting up".

Posted by: tdblistserv | November 23, 2009 10:56 AM
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