Trauma Psychology News

Endurance, Resilience, and Creativity

Naji Abi-Hashem
Naji Abi-Hashem

Transforming crises into fresh beginnings
Naji Abi-Hashem

Naji Abi-Hashem, PhD, MDiv, MA, DAAETS, is a clinical and cultural psychologist, public speaker, author, visiting professor, cross-cultural worker, consultant, ordained minister, and caregiver at large. He is a Lebanese American who is involved in international service, teaching-training, humanitarian aid, speaking, counseling, editing/writing, publishing, volunteering, global network consultation, pastoral care, and caring for the caregivers.

He was a staff psychologist with the Minirth-Meier New Life Clinics in Seattle, WA (1992-2004) and has served as a visiting scholar at the Graduate School of Intercultural Studies, Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, CA (2006-2007), and the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley, CA (2006-2008).

Naji is active in national and international organizations. He has made ~100 professional presentations and has ~100 publications in form of journal articles, book chapters, encyclopedia entries, and periodical essays. Currently, he is a Member Care International associate and a non-resident scholar at Baylor University’s Institute for Studies in Religion, an interdisciplinary research center. He usually divides his time between the United States and Beirut, Lebanon.

Ancient wisdom has conveyed that life is meant not only to be endured but to also be enjoyed, virtually as a well-integrated existential experience. Whether we are pursuing higher purposes and worthy goals in life or facing daily obstacles, struggles, and hardships, we respond in various ways. Our responses are usually shaped by a host of social factors and interpersonal dynamics.

The negative forces of life seem to impact us strongly and for a long duration. The degree of impact, and how deeply we are affected by a crisis or hardship, and what coping styles we usually employ, depend largely on our background and historical experiences, such as cultural heritage, age, gender, socio-educational status, types of community support, religious faith, value system, global worldview, and existential outlook regarding the potential hope for the immediate and far-away future.

From my cultural experiences, diligence, patience, and perseverance have been perceived as highly desired virtues, not only during- but also—after the crisis or adversity. These virtues require persistence and endurance, irrespective of the stressful events or the unfavorable circumstances. They are both innate qualities and learned skills. Naturally, life itself is a series of succeeding and failing, coping and surviving, gains and losses, clarity and confusion, triumphs and disappointments, comforts and calamities, pleasures and pains, purposeful planning and multiple setbacks, and ultimately, treasures and tragedies.

Thus, as sojourners, we, humans, normally face two types of struggles: The first type includes the expected range of challenges and difficulties, which is an integral part of the daily lifecycle. It requires pre-determined and focused efforts as well as demanding costs, as we move along the path, all the way uphill or upstream. These include the usual trials and errors, tests and oppositions, illnesses and infirmities, and the many attempts of trying over-and-over again and then spending time re-grouping afterwards.

The second type of struggle is represented by unexpected major losses and misfortunes, adversities and disasters, traumas and tragedies, especially those which happen rather suddenly. They throw us off-course and force us to contain our grief and mourning, while finding ways to press on, bounce back, and resume an at least semi-normal lifestyle and mode of functioning.

Therefore, as human beings, we are fortunate to have the ability to mostly absorb the shadows and negatives of living and then transform them into positive potentials, practical skills, learned lessons, and insightful wisdoms to use along the rest of the journey. Hopefully, we will be able to impart these nuggets of gold with others and also to pass them on to future generations.


Endurance can be viewed as the act and attitude of tolerating regular struggles and strife, problems and pandemics, disillusionments and disorders, agonies and adversities… Endurance implies mere sustaining and basic surviving. It requires a deeply built-in patience and stamina. It is the result of an empowered spirit and a core durability. Such dynamical fortitude has the potential to counter tendencies of dejection, depression, defeat, and disintegration

Simply put, endurance is the ability to withstand chronic stress and a prolonged tribulation without breaking down or giving up. It is also a skill that must be practiced in order to remain strong (like a bodily muscle), even when the system is really fatigued or has reached its level of saturation. Therefore, endurance is the quality of perseverance during unpleasant times and amid painful situations. It is also perceived as grit, which is a concept that combines both an energizing passion and a long-suffering patience in the pursuit of a long-term survival plan and, eventually, a betterment of the quality of life.

Now, if we want to chart possible developmental stages to describe such phenomenological experiences, the following sequence of steps can be helpful to consider as we conceptualize the progressive movements or the chain links for these phases-stages: a) moving from facing hardship and adversity to using our best coping skills and survival abilities; b) practicing necessary patience and endurance, with insightful forbearance, until the waves of crises fade out; c) mobilizing our resources and available capitals to make the best of the situation, with problem-solving skills: and; d) advancing forward to a wider space and upward to a higher ground so we transcend the previous level of mere operational and survival mode. This innovative and creative process is essential for striving and flourishing and can beautifully reveal a colorful inspiration of blossoming ingenuity, exactly like the shining of the horizon-sky after rain and the glowing of a rainbow after the storm.


This leads us next to talk about resiliency, which can be simply defined as tolerating an unfavorable situation, a temporary bouncing-back from a failure, or an incremental recovery from a traumatic event. However, resiliency is more than that definition and is rather a deliberate movement from a problematic and troubled condition, with open-mindedness and progressive mentality, into a wider space of aliveness and determination, coupled with a realistic plan for action to find ways to continue the gradual and healthy flow onward.

Resiliency is more than basic coping or mere surviving. It is both striving and thriving, simultaneously, in the midst of adversities and calamities. Actually, it is the tendency for positive coping in spite of the circumstance(s) and the ability for transcendence above and beyond the tangible trial(s). Simply put, resiliency is being robust and resourceful, leading the person, family, group, community, or institution toward further flourishing—all the while, without minimizing the nature or impact of the surrounding struggles or agonies. Resilient people inherently keep a keen awareness of the pain involved, yet at the same time, they are willing to pay the necessary price (although at times high) to endure, to survive, and to overcome; and eventually, to enjoy the new constructive modification and fruitful transformation in their personal life as well as in the life of their extended families and communities. That experiential reality is also true collectively for large organizations, assemblies, towns, cities, and even nations.

Resiliency involves the acquired skills and the combined efforts of accommodation, adjustment, alteration, and adaptation—and perhaps even more. These processes usually result in making the best of any given setting or situation, both on individual and communal levels, when people participate in utilizing their available resources, in fashioning potential new realities, and in maintaining an energetic sense of hope toward a better future.

Unfortunately, not all persons, families, or communities, who were exposed to severe adversities, traumas, or agonies cope or survive well. Some people, young and old, remain psychologically vulnerable and relatively weak following a calamity or tragedy, with obvious long-term psycho-social-spiritual damages and mental-emotional-physiological injuries. Such lingering symptoms and scars continue to interfere with their daily functioning and personal-communal wellbeing, perhaps for years to come.

Ultimately, resiliency is part of the maturation process and the growth journey, which manifests itself in realistically accepting both the present strengths/weaknesses and the bright-sides/dark-shadows of life. Also, it is the innate ability to dwell on the positive aspects and potential possibilities, without an intense focus on the negatives, unfortunates, and non-essentials (though fully aware of them). It is the ability to celebrate the warmth and newness of daily living without dismissing its coldness and oldness. To rejoice in the cheerfulness of others without minimizing their sadness, but rather genuinely share in their loss, grief, and anguish.

Therefore, resiliency demands a sound integration, a delicate balance, and a healthy reconciliation of the many polarities of life, including the joys and sorrows of the past, the opportunities and challenges of the present, and the hopes and fears of the future.


Creativity can be viewed as the process of inventing something new from a basic, monotonous, or permanent old. It is the manifestation of a fresh-innovation and an inspired-ingenuity. Creativity means progress, aliveness, and colorfulness. It involves re-imagining, re-establishing, re-inventing, re-calibrating, re-configuring, re-envisioning, and re-launching.

Creativity is the skill of discovering new possibilities and expanding horizons at every turn in life. It is the talent of extracting monotony out of the routine and implanting novelty and vibrancy into the ordinary.

Being creative requires depth, flow, and continuity. Also, it entails wisdom and sensitivity to build upon the beautiful richness and heritage of the past, yet at the same time, to break free from its rigid tradition and mental limitations—all done gracefully and diplomatically, in order to avoid a deliberate confrontation with what has been established, accepted, and practiced for a very long time.

Therefore, creativity is not waging a cultural war on the entire past (as if it is totally rugged or irrelevant), but gradually introducing new elements of designed-change and animated-beauty, to charm the repertoire of the old-system, without intentionally threatening it or causing a major drift and bitter schism with it.

Creative people remember that the present moment or the future landscape do not stand alone, freely floating in space, but they have roots in the past and hold enough historical context and anthropological grounding. As we celebrate the present, our creative minds ought to cherish the former and the older, because it is foundational and an integral part of our true-authentic present, which in turn, reflects our socio-cultural self, communal DNA, and tribal personality.

Invariably, the past represents our origin, heritage, reference, chronicle, and identity. When modifying and re-creating the present, as a way of exploring the possibilities of one existential moment, or when charting new paths in the middle of the here-and-now reality, the previous past and the distant future are both vividly alive and readily impinging on that present moment. Therefore, and to loosely borrow from the words of Carl G. Jung, the present moment is but a moment that is pushed by the past and pulled by the future.

Indeed, human nature is blessed with the ability to endure hardships, survive adversities, and assign a new meaning to intruding calamities. Therefore, humans are inherently equipped with a marvelous capacity and an ingrained talent-faculty to re-create new repertoires, plant new landmarks, and chart new paths, steadfastly and tirelessly, along the winding long journey of life.

When we are attuned to the Spirit of Creation, then we will become, to some degree, co-creators (or mini creators) of beauty, virtues, and values — like kindness, honesty, compassion, faith, fortitude, fidelity, prudence, generosity, integrity, and courage. We will be able to fashion fresh beginnings at every turn along the road. Surely, we will enjoy becoming the sort of artists who engage in crafting unique and delightful shapes-forms and adding much needed colors to the wide tapestry of life. And thus, significantly participating in the phenomenological experiences and elevated transcendences, almost as a Divine Expression reflecting the Imago Dei (image of God), of accumulating precious moments, generating meaning-making, designing exquisite attractions, expanding new horizons, and leaving enduring legacies.

Together, resilience and creativity seem to be two-sides of the same coin. They are interrelated, intertwined, and interdependent. Both inform each other and build upon each other. Each sphere continually shapes and feeds the other sphere. They appear to have combined and strong elements of emotional intelligence, cognitive intelligence, cultural intelligence, and spiritual intelligence—all of which constitute a mosaic tapestry of procreation, originality, determination, novelty, flexibility, steadfastness, freshness, beauty, and ingenuity.

References & Readings

Abi-Hashem, N. (1999, 2001, 2011, 2014, 2017, 2020); Al-Ghazali, A. H. (2011); Almedon, A. (2005); APA (2011); Aronowitz, T. (2005); Barker, P. A. (2019); Bonnano, G. A. (2004); Boyd, J. (2002); Davis, G., & Woodward, J. (2020); Engel (2007); Figley, C. R. (2012); Gonzalez-Mendez et al. (2020); Graham, L. (2018); Keith, K. D. (2013); Khosravi, M., & Nikmanesh, Z. (2014); Luthar et al. (2003); Maslow, A. H. (1943); Masten, A. S. (2001); McCann, J., & Selsky, J. W. (2012); Oppezzo, M., & Schwartz, D. L. (2014); Piirto, J. (2004); Psychology Today (2023); Richardson, G. E. (2002); Rubinstein, D., & Lahad, M. (2022); Schrag, B. (2013); Şimşek, A. (n.d.); Southwick, S. M., & Charney, D. S. (2018); Teachenor, J. W. (2022); Thorman, J. (2007); Titus, C. S. (2006); Ungar (2013).

Citation: Abi-Hashem, N. (2023). Endurance, resilience, and creativity: Transforming crises into fresh beginnings.Trauma Psychology News, 18(1), 10-17.

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