Strength is defined as a positive adaptation in response to adversity. Two researchers, Hamidah Mahdiani (University of Mainz, Germany) and Michael Ungar (Dalhousie University, Halifax, Canada), highlighted the risks of this concept. They asked who would decide if an adjustment was positive and warned of the risk of focusing on adjusting to a cost difficulty to challenge that difficulty.
Stability does not mean indestructibility. Strength and inefficiency can sometimes be confusing. For example, more educational support for children with learning disabilities may make them more resilient within a learning environment, but it may not make them less vulnerable to stigma or bullying.
Strength can be demonstrated in ways that not everyone considers positive. Overly optimistic expectations that have little chance of being fulfilled – “false expectations” – can lead to failure, as can overconfidence. Similarly, excessive self -esteem can fall into narcissism. Strength can be seen as a lack of an appropriate emotional response to adversity, for example, in the case of grief.
The focus on strength can distract from the need to challenge adversity rather than adapt to it-the resilience paradox.
Strength according to whom? Antarctic explorer Ernest Shackleton was able to survive with his team for two years in a cold wilderness. Was this heroic strength, as celebrated at the time, or did bringing his crew into such a situation endangering their lives? When soldiers reach a personal training limit, does strength reflect resilience or does it take themselves to focus on something that suits them better mentally or physically? Were the survivors of the 2002 floods in the Solomon Islands strong when they responded with confidence by rebuilding homes that could not withstand another flood? The 19thcentury belief in opium as a relief from anxiety a form of strength?
The focus on strength can distract from the need to challenge adversity rather than adapt to it-the resilience paradox. One could argue that adapting to climate change is not productive if the safe answer is to challenge it and try to stop it. The same can be argued for racism, poverty, violence, maltreatment, and social injustice. In all cases, the strength of a following individual can only make things worse. This is called the stability paradox. Expecting robustness in such contexts can be considered cruel.