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


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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Available from: George A Bonanno, Mar 30, 2014
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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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    • "Flexibility—both cognitive flexibility and flexibility in using coping skills—has been found to be an important facet of efficient adjustment after a traumatic event (Aldao et al. 2010; Troy and Mauss 2011). In coping with trauma, flexibility has been studied as the ability to flexibly enhance or suppress expressions of emotions (Bonanno et al. 2004) and to flexibly alternate between modes of dealing with the event (Bonanno et al. 2011). The present research focuses on the ability to alternate between two modes of coping with trauma: focusing on the traumatic event (Trauma Focus) and focusing on the future and non-trauma-related activities (Forward Focus). "
    • "Many individuals show uncompromised or even positive psychosocial functioning despite exposure to stress and trauma (Masten 2001, Bonanno 2004). This phenomenon has been named resilience (Werner 1993, Rutter 1985). "
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