What accounts for the difference in resilience from one person to another, and from one moment to another in one person? Is resilience something we’re born with, or can it be learned? (Image: Shutterstock)

I once saw a patient in my primary care clinic for a persistent nasal drip. Though a common symptom, the degree of misery it was causing him was decidedly uncommon. According to him, it had nearly stopped his life in its tracks. He couldn’t go out or concentrate. He was even having trouble doing his job. I prescribed a simple steroid nasal spray and went to see my next patient, an elderly woman dying of metastatic breast cancer.

In stark contrast to my first patient, she was the picture of equipoise, seemingly fearless in the face of her impending death. What I remember most from my visit with her was that she had a lot to teach me about how to die well.

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