Loss, Trauma, and Human Resilience: Have We Underestimated the Human Capacity to Thrive After Extremely Aversive Events?

Department of Counseling and Clinical Psychology, Teachers College, Columbia University, 525 West 120th Street. Box 218, New York, NY 10027, USA.
American Psychologist (Impact Factor: 6.87). 02/2004; 59(1):20-8. DOI: 10.1037/0003-066X.59.1.20
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT Many people are exposed to loss or potentially traumatic events at some point in their lives, and yet they continue to have positive emotional experiences and show only minor and transient disruptions in their ability to function. Unfortunately, because much of psychology's knowledge about how adults cope with loss or trauma has come from individuals who sought treatment or exhibited great distress, loss and trauma theorists have often viewed this type of resilience as either rare or pathological. The author challenges these assumptions by reviewing evidence that resilience represents a distinct trajectory from the process of recovery, that resilience in the face of loss or potential trauma is more common than is often believed, and that there are multiple and sometimes unexpected pathways to resilience.

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    • "Most definitions incorporate a stressor and the notion of adaptation, and a speedy return to pre-stressor levels of functioning (Norris, Stevens, Pfefferbaum, Wyche, & Pfefferbaum, 2008). Bonanno (2004) defines individual resilience as a person's capacity to maintain overall healthy, stable functioning following stressful life events. From the perspective of communities, Norris et al. (2008) refer to the ability of communities to withstand hazards and/or recover from disasters. "
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    • "Notably, the fact that the majority of students with traumatic stress events did not develop full or partial PTSD symptomatology indicates that they might have higher resilience in overcoming such traumatic events. As Bonanno (2004) indicated and several previous studies have done so with selected adult samples (Lee, Ahn, Jeong, Chae, & Choi, 2014; Pietrzak, Johnson, Goldstein, Malley, & Southwick, 2009; Wingo et al., 2010), future studies, therefore, are warranted to identify such protective factors or multiple pathways to promote resilience in university students with PTSD. There are several limitations that we must be aware of when interpreting the findings of the present study. "
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