Resilience of The Human Spirit

How do they do that?

Having worked with so many people who have undergone unspeakable trauma, I’ve heard stories of amazing survival skills. It is surprising what we can endure and survive. I think many of us agree that we can’t imagine what it was like to be kept as prisoners in a house for 10, or almost 10, years. We let our minds go there for just a moment, it becomes overwhelming and we skirt away.
We know that so many people who have walked this earth endured horror beyond our worst dreams and within that space, figured out how to live the unlivable. Survive 17 days in a crumbled factory. Survive a concentration camp. Emerge whole and full of light after being sexually, emotionally, or physically abused. Keep alive during combat.


They did it by taking action rather than just succumbing to their experience. They actively survived because something was important to them about surviving–getting back home to someone, being out of that house, hoping for a different life. Maybe there was a bit of luck, or a miracle, but there is always some kind of gumption involved, some determination and focus on resisting the problem. There are some skills and abilities they used, and these stood on something that they held precious.

What happens now?

How we make meaning about what happens to us makes all of the difference. And this meaning start with us noticing our response.

Amanda Berry’s cousin were quoted in a video saying “She is a fighter, I knew she would come up on top! She is just like us, we don’t give up!” Rumors were spread that Amanda was quietly homeschooling her daughter and that three women had bonded together in their captivity. Even though they were being imprisoned against their will, this suggests to me that they found their agency–they acted as an agent in their life rather than just a passive recipient of it- at least some of the time. They responded, and they did so in a way that spoke of what they gave value to: friendship, love and kindness. (I am speculating as of course I haven’t spoken to them.) So instead of just holding the identity of ‘victim’-which they might/must have felt also, they also might have known they were motherly, kind, loving, and smart, etc.

Now, as they look back on the experience, what they give the most meaning to and how they interpret what happened and their responses will make all the difference in the world to their recovery. As “victims,” it is common to blame ourselves. If one of them thinks, “How stupid, my aunt was just down the street why didn’t I try to escape?” this self accusation will weigh heavy on her heart. But if they say, “We helped each other,” this is a place to stand outside the victim story. Hopefully these stories of friendship and survival can be drawn out by friends and family. So they can keep smiling those precious smiles from the photo of them in the hospital that was all over the news.

Good news!

I was recently published in The Willow Review, a literary magazine from the College Of Lake County. The essay–a story about resilience through sexual abuse–is not online and I can’t republish it because of copyright. But I wanted to share my joy since I am excited. Finally, I was even a runner up in their contest!

Some of the best books about the resilience of the human spirit that I have read recently.

Diary of Ann Frank, we all know this one. But if you haven’t read it since you were in school, read it again.

The Blue Notebook, by James A. Levine. A fiction account of human trafficking in India. Very sad and could be triggering, but if you listen for her resilience you will be inspired beyond yourself.

In The Presence Of My Enemies, by Gracia Burham about her captivity as a hostage in Philippines. Very powerful.

Lastly, a prayer…

Dear God,

May the women held captive in Cleveland for all these years
be healed of their trauma and given back their lives.
Heal their wounds, renew their spirits and give them joy.
Bring light to this unspeakable darkness,
for them, the child and everyone involved.
We think as well tonight, dear God,
of all who are captive and not yet set free.
Work miracles for all.
And so it is.

Marianne Williamson

What went through your mind, as you watched the news last week?

37 thoughts on “Resilience of The Human Spirit”

  1. What went through my mind?

    A good question Jodi, firstly I think the thought of what relief must be going through these women’s minds. Closely followed by wondering how they could have been kept like that for so long with neighbours all around.

    The fact they were held so long without being discovered shows how little neighbour-neighbour interaction many people have. Years ago everybody in a street knew everybody else, they knew what their neighbours houses looked like both inside and out.

    Over the last decade or even perhaps longer this communication with neighbours has slowly died a death. This I think is for many reasons, not least of which we now perceive that we have less in common with our neighbours than ever before.

    When I was growing up all my neighbours had, like me lived in the same area for years, sometimes since birth as had their parents. This has all changed, people are more mobile now, they will not only move cities they will move countries or continents without even a thought.

    It’s human nature that we view incomers with suspicion and doubt, after all we think they are different. Hence we don’t communicate with them much, hence we don’t know much about them, and often foreigners don’t seem keen to integrate with the locals but keep themselves to themselves and only integrate with others from their home country, all races are guilty of this, there are many British for example in Spain and they have formed for want of a better description British enclaves, for all the contact they have with the locals they might as well have stayed in the UK except perhaps for the sun.

    Perhaps if there had been more community spirit and communications they would not have been held for so long, but the answer to that of course we will never know.

    Good post Jodi, thought provoking on a Monday afternoon.

  2. I was very very sad when my grandpa died, then I start thinking what I’ll do when my dad dies. Very hard to pass such events.

    Best regards from I. C. Daniel

    1. Jodi Lobozzo Aman

      Sometime we are distracted by thinking abotu when our loved ones might die, this takes up today and the closeness we can feel instead!

  3. I felt their strength, and determination! I also felt tremendous gratitude that they are now free from their captures and pray for a fast and thorough recovery!

  4. I so appreciate your focus on what helps someone move from being a victim to being a victor. We all face challenges, but I’m blessed to have led a life free from the horrors that so many people have had to endure. I’m fascinated by the resilience of the human spirit. When called upon, many of us find it deep within ourselves to not only endure, but to transcend.
    Galen Pearl recently posted..The Water Is for EveryoneMy Profile

  5. Jodi:
    Me encantó. I kept thinking, what do they held precious to survive,you say love, friendship and kindness as a guess, and i think that can be. What made them no to give up on life and what things where for them so precious that give meaning to what they were living, no matter how difficult it was. I also was curious, from whom did they learned to survive…
    Their responses are so important as you say to not be a victim, passive recipient of the experience, but they do things to have a better life no matter the context they were living.

    Thanks Jodi for sharing this inspiring stories, and inviting us to see how they respond, instead of just seeing it as “natural”, you linked their responses to what they hold precious. Gracias, Jodi.

  6. P.S. I forgot to add…There is a wonderful book called The Survivor’s Club by Ben Sherwood that is not only inspiring, but if you buy the book you get a “key” that allows you to take an online test (free) to determine your survivor strengths. We all have them. You reminded me of this book when you said: “They actively survived because something was important to them about surviving.” This is different for everyone, of course, but there are some commonalities. It was interesting and very accurate.
    Leslie recently posted..Monday Mitzvahs: Our Mite-size Acts of KindnessMy Profile

  7. Jodi, what happened to those women in Ohio is shameful. Shame on all of us for letting them down. For not trying harder to find them. For ignoring the red flags and calls to the police. I was talking to a friend today who was letting me know how awful she feels that while they were being held captive, the rest of us were pretty much enjoying our lives, coming and going freely, enjoying the outdoors, celebrating our children’s birthdays. How does one reconcile such evil? What happened in Ohio has hit a lot of us hard.
    Monica recently posted..Lightning in a Jar: The Walls of JerichoMy Profile

    1. Jodi Lobozzo Aman

      I think it hits us hard because we value freedom and caring for people. I agree that we need to take respobsibility and reflect how we as a culture could allow this to happen. We need to take a good hard look!

  8. I’ve been wondering how these women, and others before them, could possibly survive. Thank you for putting into words how it is possible. It is comforting to know that they can recover.

  9. I felt – angry, heartbroken, inspired. And part of what made me angry – still makes me angry, is the people, well-meaning though they may be, blathering about how the kidnapper/rapist RUINED their lives.

    No. He damaged their lives, absolutely. He stole years and experiences from them. But they have proven they are survivors, heroes, awesome women.

    People CAN recover from rape, trauma, abuse. You can’t recover from dead. And I think those kinds of messages (that you life has been RUINED) ultimately hurt the women and men bravely fighting to recover their sense of self-worth after horrific events.
    Beverly Diehl recently posted..Devotee Romance – Interview with Ruth MadisonMy Profile

  10. I am constantly taking inspiration from people who display resilience in the wake of trauma and tragedy, it’s what makes humans so amazing. I don’t doubt that the women in Ohio will have some challenging moments in the years ahead but I believe they truly are survivors and they will come out of this ordeal as strong as they are brave.

    Congratulations on the publication of your essay, Jodi! That’s no small deal and I’m so very happy for you!
    Laura Zera recently posted..Travel: A Visit to the SkyMallMy Profile

  11. I heard about it, but could not watch or read about it. It was a trigger for me. “Emerging whole”, can that really happen? Is it possible? I feel like broken into a million pieces. I don’t think I was ever “whole” to begin with, so I’m not quite sure what it means or feels like.

    1. Jodi Lobozzo Aman

      You have been whole and will be again. Deep down you are still whole. It is just covered with fear and guilt from all of your experiences. Like a heavy dark cloud that feels like a high security prison. But it just takes a shift in beliefs to come out. It is hard to shift when fear is so great. But poco a poco (little by little). Abuse is not a death sentence. Read Beverly Diehl’s comment. She has been abused and I love her! Mary, you are amazing, I see htat you are. i know you don’t see it because you blame yourself for all that has happened. None of it was your fault. You, my dear, are innocent. I wish for you to keep telling yourself that! xoxoxoxoxo

  12. Such an interesting and powerful post, Jodi. It’s so heartbreaking what these girls/women went through. I just keep thinking about them; what they lived through and what they must be going through now to transition back into “normal” life after so many years of trauma. Their resiliency is admirable.

    And on a happier note, many congratulations on your recent publication! So great to hear about it!
    Lisa W. Rosenberg recently posted..Guest Blog on Magic and FantasticMy Profile

  13. Biographies and “true stories” are my favorite books specially when it relates a story of abuse. I’ve read so many of them, I just can’t remember names.

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