Resilience of Israeli soldiers in transition from military to civilian life: A phenomenological study

Batya S Rotter, Fordham University


Researchers studying the phenomenon of resilience have identified factors and processes that abet wellbeing (and growth) in the face of adversity, with the goal of applying this knowledge in intervention practice. However, there is a lack of definitional clarity and consensus as to what the term “resilience” means, and within the military literature on resilience this has lead to problems of (1) generalizing findings from populations such as children to soldiers, (2) operationalizing resilience as the absence of pathology, (3) studying constituents of resilience as decontextualized variables that are removed from their lived meanings, and (4) defining resilience by an “expert” discourse without considering the experiences of soldiers themselves. In order to address these limitations, this study aimed to define resilience holistically, based on what it is, as a person-centered construct that is understood through the lives of combat soldiers/veterans during the multiple phases of military service. Open-ended interviews were conducted with fourteen (male) Israeli combat soldiers and were then analyzed using a phenomenological method as outlined by Giorgi (2009) to develop a psychological structure of resilience. Resilience was generally described as a process of shifting, learning and changing in order to align one’s position (or ‘modes-of-being’) with life-context, and an outcome where one could experience congruence and at-homeness in each life-context. A soldier found a home in combat when he was able to embody Soldier Mode—where he achieved alignment with the goals and protocols of military life, a sense of belonging and solidarity with comrades, and a physical and mental readiness to seamlessly engage in his combat activities; the veteran found a home in civilian life when he was able to diminish the wounds of his combat past, either by walling them off from his present (bifurcating) or incorporating them into a new concept of selfhood (integrating). Within this structure, additional constituents of resilience were shown to be inter-related through the developmental, temporal, spatial, and social dimensions of his psychological life. In this way, this study exemplified how various aspects of resilience described in the extant literature can come together through an understanding of the lived experience.

Subject Area

Mental health|Psychology|Military studies

Recommended Citation

Rotter, Batya S, "Resilience of Israeli soldiers in transition from military to civilian life: A phenomenological study" (2015). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI3728446.