Reaching Resilience – one backstory behind our new book

FII’s newly published Reaching Resilience is rich with fresh, living stories and activities, such as ‘dry stick green stick’, ‘inner guests’, and ‘the story listener’.  As people have used these activities, they have adapted them to different cultures and situations around the world. Here is a wonderful example!

The use of a stick as a metaphor for resilience is not new. When Pat Omidian first began talking to communities about resilience, she used to begin her lecture with an image of a green stick springing back into shape after being bent and a dry stick breaking under pressure.

To make her presentation more lively and interactive, she began bringing an actual green stick and a dry stick to demonstrate the point. As people mentioned stresses they were experiencing in their lives and in their community, she bent the dry stick a little more. Usually after the third or fourth stressor mentioned, the stick would break. Then she would do the same with a green stick, which would keep bending without breaking. After all the stresses were named, she would let go of one end of the green stick and it would spring back into its original straight shape.

At some point, she began passing the two sticks around the audience so that those who wanted to, could bend each one and feel the difference in flexibility.

When Palestinian psychologist Dr. Mohamed Altawil was shown this activity, and subsequently brought Community Wellness Focusing (CWF) to the Gaza strip, the “green stick dry stick” exercise underwent a further transformation.

People in Gaza often had trouble getting in touch with personal feelings. They had been forced to ignore them in order to survive. Holding an object helped them to feel, particularly if it held some personal symbolic meaning, such as a house key or a teddy bear.

Mohamed decided to bring a large number of green sticks and dry sticks to his support groups so that each person could internalize the difference between bending and breaking. He wanted people to feel this “green stick sensation” in their bodies. In that way, they could remember and integrate the message into their experience.

Experiencing the rubbery feel of the flexible green stick and the brittleness of the dry one made it possible for them to recognize how they carry stress in their own bodies and to know when they are able to be flexible and resilient and when they are being stressed to the breaking point.

This simple activity took an intellectual talking point and turned it into experiential knowing, leading the participants to a recognition of their own typical stress responses, and helping them develop a deep awareness of the resiliency skills which they and their community already had. This body-based knowledge then enriched the ensuing discussion about their community’s strengths and about exploring ways they could further develop resiliency skills to help people stay healthy and cope in difficult times.

The development of this activity is an example of how Community Wellness Focusing draws on the particularity of each community’s culture to adapt and transform the ways we share knowledge and learn from one another.


We invite YOU!

Think about the many ways in which you could use this book as a resource and adapt an activity from it to your particular community.

Reaching Resilience can be purchased from Amazon in hard copy or electronic form by clicking here. The hard copy includes handouts that can be easily copied to distribute to workshop participants.


Reviews of Reaching Resilience:

Reaching Resilience is extremely well done.  The language is clear and accessible, the exercises precise and easy to follow.  Pat Omidian’s sharing of stories from her own experiences in different countries are engaging and instructive.   It presents a way of doing community development that emphasizes the ability of disadvantaged and traumatized communities to empower themselves, drawing on the resources of their own culture.”

David Rome, creator of Mindful Focusing, author of Your Body Knows the Answer


Reaching Resilience is utterly terrific, interesting, informative and very practical. It is a gem!  Thank you for the care in which you put into this wonderful book. I loved the interesting way you tell your own story and the clarity with which you describe the exercises.  …. a wonderful new resource.

Joan Klagsbrun, Focusing-oriented psychotherapist, trainer and lecturer