Although it may seem like a recent idea, resilience dates back to biblical times; the character of Job – “he who endures hardship” in Hebrew – is perhaps its best incarnation.
In the Book of Job, the Jewish Tanakh or the Christian Old Testament, the story of the righteous and pious man is told to whom Satan, with the complicity of Yahweh, casts the worst misfortunes to test his faith.
“But now that evil has come upon you, you are discouraged;
And when it has come upon you, you are troubled.
Is not your fear of God your confidence?
Is not your hope the integrity of your ways?”.
(Book of Job chapter IV, 5-6)
Not being discouraged or troubled, not losing confidence and maintaining hope are behaviours that define resilience, and which Esty, the protagonist of Netflix‘s Unorthodox miniseries, displays in a huge way.
Although there is no agreed definition, in psychology resilience is usually understood as the ability to overcome adverse situations. Like Esty, who, while running away from an ultra-orthodox Jewish community in New York and starting of a new life in Berlin, must use all her personal resources to succeed. But, far from a certain discourse that praises individualism, just as Job needs friends to overcome his doubts about God, Esty needs others to escape the destiny that has been set for her by the religious community to which she belongs, and to fit into the new society she has chosen to live in. Her strength consists in not abandoning herself and being attentive to the hand that will come to help her.
In fact, it is an enigma why some people collapse in the face of difficulties and others seem to grow. One of the keys seems to lie in cognitive flexibility. Esty, for example, has to quickly change her mind and improvise during the admission process to a music conservatory. In the East a common metaphor for flexibility is that of the reed, which is bent by the wind but does not break.
Martin Seligman, one of the founders of Positive Psychology, has proposed the model of the 3P’s (“three Ps”): Personalization (attributing failures to personal shortcomings), Pervasiveness (assuming the omnipresence of evil in all areas of our lives) and Permanence (believing that adverse situations will last forever).
Resilient people, like the protagonist of Unorthodox, seem to be free of Seligman’s 3Ps, or at least they are during the time they are put to the test. Because if nothing is permanent, neither is resilience.
The Germany that persecuted the Jews becomes a refuge for the Jewess Esty, who exchanges the rigid rules of her former community for a compass, a symbol that, no matter how lost we feel, if we keep hope, if we do not collapse, if we do not break down, the paths will be cleared.
Although, as Job says, “naked we came out of the womb and naked we shall go”.