There is no Going ‘Beyond’ Resilience

So often the language and Discourse of risk and safety give away its ideological view hidden in marketing and spin. The best way to understand ideology is through Critical Discourse Analysis. Just dig a bit deeper than a headline and ask just a few critical questions.

Just when you thought fallibility denial couldn’t be any stronger than zero or predictive analytics we get this: ‘Presilience – the secret to remaining calm in the face of life’s greatest challenges’.

Let’s start by being wary of any marketing that claims to know the ‘secret’ about anything. Dig a little deeper and you find more nonsense language about ‘going beyond resilience’ and some ‘optimal way of knowing’. Scratch a little further and you discover that resilience is mis-defined to suit loaded assumptions and a new brand ‘presilience’ which is about ‘teaching the brain’ to control emotions.

And so, the old favourite of brain-as-computer is trotted out and we discover that ‘presilience’ is to reprogramming the brain. Nothing could be more dangerous nor unhelpful in understanding human emotions, personhood or an ethical response to risk. Quite simply you cannot ‘teach your brain to control your reactions’. This not only demonsies human emotions but has no understanding of the extensive research into: embodiment, neuropsychology, intercorporeality or interaffectivity (eg Fuchs, Johnson, Damasio etc –

Brains cannot act like ‘smart thermostats’. Clever metaphor but no connection to evidence. Indeed, using the brain-as-computer metaphor demonstrates the most extraordinary ignorance about human persons and the nature of human being. None of the metaphors used to promote this idea of presilience have any connection to evidence about how human emotions work. If you want to step away from this nonsense metaphor and understand the human emotions you could try reading any of the following:

  • Claxton, G., (2009) The Wayward Mind, An Intimate History of The Unconscious. London.
  • Claxton, G., (2015) Intelligence in the Flesh. Yale University Press. New York.
  • Colombetti, G., The Feeling Body, Affective Science Meets the Enactive Mind. MIT Press, London.
  • Damasio, A., (1994) Descartes’ Error, Emotion, Reason, and The Human Brian. Penguin, New York.
  • Damasio, A., (1999) The Feeling of What happens, Body and Emotions in the Making of Consciousness. Harvest Books, New York.
  • Damasio, A., (2003) Looking for Spinoza, Joy, Sorrow and the Feeling Brain. Harvest Books. New York.
  • Damasio, A., (2010) Self Comes to Mind, Constructing the Conscious Brain. Pantheon Books. New York.
  • Damasio, A., (2018) The Strange Order of Things, Life, Feeling and the Making of Cultures. Pantheon Books. New York.
  • Damasio, A., (2021) Feeling and Knowing, Making Minds Conscious. Pantheon Books. New York.
  • Durt, C., Fuchs, T., and Tews, C., (eds.) (1997) Embodiment, Enaction, and Culture. MIT Press. London.
  • Fuchs, T., (2018) Ecology of the Brain, The Phenomenology and Biology of the Embodied Mind. Oxford University Press. London.
  • Fuchs, T., (2021) In Defense of the Human Being Foundational Questions of an Embodied Anthropology. Oxford University Press. London.
  • Ginot, E., (2015) The Neuropsychology of the Unconscious, Integrating Brain and Mind in Psychotherapy. New York.
  • Johnson, M., (1987) The Body in Mind, The Bodily Basis of Meaning, Imagination and Reason. University of Chicago Press.
  • Johnson, M., (2007) The Meaning of the Body, Aesthetics of Human Understanding. University of Chicago Press.
  • Johnson, M., (2014) Morality for Humans, Ethical Understanding from the Perspective of Cognitive Science. University of Chicago Press.
  • Johnson, M., (2017) Embodied Mind, Meaning and Reason. How Our Bodies Give Rise to Understanding. University of Chicago Press.
  • Lakoff, G., and Johnson, M., (1980). Metaphors We Live By. University of Chicago Press.
  • Lakoff, G., and Johnson, M., (1999). Philosophy in the Flesh, The Embodied Mind and Its Challenges to Western Thought.  Basic Books, New York.
  • Macknik, S., and Martinez-Conde, S., (2010) Sleights of Mind, What the Neuroscience of Magic Reveals About Our Everyday Deceptions. Henry Holt Co., New York.
  • Meyer, C., Streeck, J., and Jordan, J. S., (2017). Intercorporeality, Emerging Socialities in Interaction. University of Chicago Press.
  • Noe, A., (2009) Out of Our Heads, Why You Are Not Your Brain and Other Lessons from The Biology of Consciousness. Hill and Wang. New York.
  • Norretranders, T., (1991) The User Illusion, Cutting Consciousness Down to Size. London.
  • Panksepp, J., (1998) Affective Neuroscience, The Foundations of Human Animal Emotions. Oxford University Press. London.
  • Raaven, H., (2013). The Self Beyond Itself, An Alternative History of Ethics, the New Brain Sciences and the Myth of Free Will. The New Press.  New York.
  • Ramachandran, V. S., (2004) A Brief Tour of Human Consciousness. PI Books, New York
  • Robinson, K., (2011). Out of Our Minds, Learning to Be Creative. London.
  • Thompson, E., (2010) Mind in Life, Biology, Phenomenology, and the Science of the Mind. Belknap Press. London.
  • Tversky, B., (2019) Mind in Motion, How Action Shapes Thoughts. Basic Books. New York.
  • Van Der Kolk, B., (2015) The Body Keeps the Score, Brain, Mind and Body in the Healing of Trauma. Penguin, New York.
  • Varela, F., Thompson, E ., and Rosch, E., (1993) The Embodied Mind, Cognitive Science and Human Experience. MIT Press, London.

Hey, but when you have a cute marketing idea, why let research get in the way.

Coupled to this concept is not only nonsense language about going ‘beyond resilience’ but also the silly language of ‘future-proofing’ (

Here we have just more denial of fallibility, projections about controlling risk and more language of ‘performance’ and traditional approaches to risk.

Whenever you read what is being marketed at you just dissect the Discourse (the power in text). Ask a few critical questions ( and look for the silences ( Or, ask just a few questions in Critical Discourse Analysis . For example, when Safety Differently states ‘people are not a problem to control but a resource to harness’ it is a statement of the same thing. Indeed, harnessing people as a ‘resource’ envisions harnessing on an animal to make it do as the owner wants! And, always pay attention to the semiotics that accompany such marketing.

The real problem with all of this is that it is just more of the same. Wrong cognitions that need re-programming and guess who has the secret to the new program? Then let’s get rid of that pesky idea of fallibility (indeed, let’s not talk about it) and those uncontrollable emotions. In the end its just more behaviourism.

The reality is, humans cannot ‘future proof’ anything. The foundational nature of risk is about not knowing. The foundational nature of risk is that fallible people step out in faith each day not knowing the outcome. The idea that there is some secret to some optimal way of knowing sounds more like a religious cult than anything helpful about resilience. It is no surprise in this Linkedin article that the semiotic of ‘Zen Mode’ is used.

Humans need to be resilient because no-one knows the outcome of tackling risk. You can’t go ‘beyond’ resilience just like one cannot predict the unexpected. The place to start with any understanding of risk is fallibility ( ). Anyone claiming expertise in risk should be clear about what risk is. Similarly, one’s responses and emotions are NOT controlled by the brain and have much more to do with Socialitie, Mentalities and a mature understanding of Social Psychology. If one thinks that emotions are outputs of brain cognition then one will be sadly disappointed when none of this works.

If you are interested in the realities of resilience and the extensive research into how humans can tackle the emotions through a better understanding of the Social Psychology of Risk you can register for the SPoR Convention approaching in May where resilience is a key focus (


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