The Value of Tolerance and Resilience When Things Go Wrong

We're all pilots. But, instead of planes, it's our dreams, illusions, and objectives that need to take off. In both these cases, the air can be an enemy, but also a friend. Therefore, we need to learn some strategies to get it to blow in our favor.
The Value of Tolerance and Resilience When Things Go Wrong

Last update: 10 February, 2023

When all around you is dark and everything seems to be going against you, it’s normal for you to feel stuck. Old ghosts of the past may even reappear.

There are various events, like a breakup, the death of a loved one, a goodbye to someone close to you, a layoff from work, or an accident that can generate negative valence emotions. They can be so intense that you lose sight of the main reference points in your life. The positive kinds, that, like a lighthouse, usually guide you when you’re in danger. In fact, to a great extent, the difficulties you face define you.

It’s worth remembering that a plane always takes off against the wind. Therefore, it has to do an enormous amount of work. In turn, the wind allows it to advance without falling to the ground. The plane glides. It uses the air to let it go. So, using the airplane as an analogy, how can you master the air that, in principle, prevents you from flying? How can you build something to turn that which is against you to work in your favor?

man with anxiety
When everything goes wrong, resilience and tolerance for frustration can help.

The wounded victors

Naturally, negative events aren’t generally good. However, you should remember that every cloud has a silver lining and that you learn from every experience, whether they’re good or bad.

In the context of difficulty, you might choose to act in two opposing directions. You could give up total control of what happens to you. Or, you might use all your energy to act on the variables that you can control to try and minimize the damage and reverse inertia.

Every event in life has a beginning and an end. Being certain that this is the case helps you to view your problems from a kinder perspective. Because, even if you can’t see the end of the tunnel right now, you feel assured that you’re headed to a better place.

Giving up is the wrong route to take. As a matter of fact, adversity makes you grow. In effect, you develop resilience and tolerance for frustration.

Resilience to fly against the wind

Resilience gives rise to behaviors and thought processes that are really useful in situations where the forces around you aren’t favorable. It explains, to a large extent, why some of us, when faced with the same circumstances, surrender to our fate and others don’t. Instead, we work on the fronts we can.

However, resilience isn’t something that you either have or don’t. In fact, it encompasses a set of processes that you can perfect.

“Resilience is the phenomenon by which individuals achieve relatively good results despite being exposed to adverse experiences.”

-Rutter-

Being resilient in no way means being insensitive. Resilient people don’t go through life covered in armor, nor are they incapable of showing themselves to be vulnerable. They suffer injuries but demonstrate their resilience and ability to disinfect, bandage, and care for their wounds so they heal. In fact, they don’t suffer any less emotional pain, but they have more resources so they don’t allow their emotions to hijack them.

Resilient personality traits

The concept of resilience was born in the 1970s when psychologist Michael Rutter realized that the same traumatic event produced different coping responses in different individuals. After researching this subject, he enunciated the main characteristics of the resilient personality :

  • Developing stable and positive self-esteem makes us capable of resisting the traumatic events we face, regardless of their severity.
  • Being able to stop and reflect allows us to improve our capacity for introspection. Resilience means we’re more aware of our skills and attitudes so we can face what’s happening to us.
  • Being independent helps us establish limits between ourselves and the society in which we live without implying that we live in isolation.
  • The ability to bond with other people and establish intimate and empathetic social relationships is key. It allows us to weave threads that connect us to real friends. Thus, we strengthen our ability to recognize the needs of others and see ourselves reflected in our own.
  • Practicing assertiveness leads us to know what our rights are and to assert them before others. It implies self-respect and self-pity. It suggests being able to love ourselves when we need it most.
  • Having initiative in the things that happen to us implies not adopting a position of helplessness when faced with difficulties. It consists of investigating and coming into contact with life’s challenges from the perspective of searching for causes and their solutions.
  • Creativity and humor are always good friends. Creativity allows us to create where it seems that there’s only destruction. Humor helps because it’s the ability to perceive comical aspects in everyday things. When everything seems to be going against us, being able to laugh helps to release a great deal of tension. Consequently, we feel better.

Resilient people don’t develop all of these skills at the same time. They’re not born with them. They develop them with every event that happens.

Frustration tolerance

Being skilled at managing frustration gives us valuable space in many difficult situations. Somehow, it prevents the brain fog from coming down, thus preserving our alertness of mind. There are some keys that can help you increase your tolerance for frustration:

  • Identify the sources of your discomfort.
  • Define your emotional state. What emotions are governing it? How long do you expect it to last? What triggered it? Disconnecting from your emotional world is something you do frequently, but it’s inevitable to experience certain emotions. To emotionally self-regulate, you can practice techniques such as mindfulness.
  • Understand the emotions of others. Put yourself in their shoes. Ask yourself what they’re feeling. What might they be thinking? What would other people do? Empathy allows us to improve as individuals and as a society, but it also allows us to generate points of view that are different from ours. In turn, they enrich the decisions we make.
  • Postpone making important decisions when you detect that your emotional intensity is really high. In addition to making you impulsive, emotions tend to reduce your focus. Thus, you opt for choices that benefit you in the short term, but extremely little in the long term.
  • Reflect on how you relate to uncertainty.
  • Worries are useful when they cause you to solve problems, but not when they become intrusive, contaminating nearly every train of thought. When worries last too long, they turn into thought loops known as rumination. Practicing sports or activities that involve movement will help you escape these endless states.

“When everything seems to be going against you, remember that the airplane takes off against the wind, not with it.”

-Henry Ford-

Woman looking in the mirror
Only when we take responsibility for ourselves can we face the challenges of existence.

Being resilient

Being resilient and knowing how to tolerate frustration won’t make you invulnerable. Invulnerability refers to absolute resistance to the negative consequences that existence sometimes brings. However, being resilient and tolerant of frustration implies knowing how to turn hard moments in life into opportunities to grow and develop.

Remember the airplane analogy and how it makes the air its ally. By learning how to tolerate frustration, you’ll get to know your limits better. You’ll also be able to hone the art of employing some of the strategies in this article.

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All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.


  • Oriol-Bosch, A. (2012). Resiliencia. Educación médica, 15(2), 77-78.
  • Fernandes de Araújo, L., & Bermúdez, M. D. L. P. (2015). Resiliencia en adultos: una revisión teórica. Terapia psicológica, 33(3), 257-276.
  • Rodríguez, J. G. (2009). La respuesta positiva ante la adversidad: Resiliencia. Quadernos de criminología: revista de criminología y ciencias forenses, (7), 7-12.

The contents of Exploring Your Mind are for informational and educational purposes only. They don't replace the diagnosis, advice, or treatment of a professional. In the case of any doubt, it's best to consult a trusted specialist.