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Positive Growth From Adversity and Beyond: Insights Gained From Cross-Examination of Clinical and Nonclinical Samples


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Growth following adversity is a well-known phenomenon. Yet studies often focus on specific populations and/or specific types of adversities, thus limiting opportunities to identify underlying common processes of growth. The present study sought to identify shared positive change processes in different samples of individuals each of whom faced life adversities (clinical/non-clinical) and experienced growth as a result. We conducted a secondary analysis comparing in-depth interviews from two independent study samples including 27 Israeli adults that experienced spiritual growth and 31 American mental health peer-providers in recovery. Using grounded theory approach (Strauss & Corbin, 1998), the findings point to existing shared transformative positive change pertaining to one's way of being and adhering to a generative orientation (Erikson, 1963) in the world. These changes were conceptualized under three growth dimensions: (1) strengthened sense of self, manifested in self-integration, self-acceptance and enhanced ability to face further adversity; (2) development of compassion, acceptance of others and a deep sense of connection to others; and (3) a prosocial commitment characterized by generativity and active contribution. These findings point to shared growth processes among individuals with a different backgrounds and different kinds of adversities. This change goes beyond mere coping, to an inner transformation in one's self, connection to others, and development of a proactive-prosocial approach in the world. The implications for health care practitioners and the importance of acknowledging the potential for growth following adversity and supporting such growth are discussed.
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American Journal of Orthopsychiatry
Positive Growth From Adversity and Beyond: Insights
Gained From Cross-Examination of Clinical and Nonclinical
Pninit Russo-Netzer and Galia Moran
Online First Publication, November 7, 2016.
Russo-Netzer, P., & Moran, G. (2016, November 7). Positive Growth From Adversity and Beyond:
Insights Gained From Cross-Examination of Clinical and Nonclinical Samples. American Journal of
Orthopsychiatry. Advance online publication.
Positive Growth From Adversity and Beyond:
Insights Gained From Cross-Examination of Clinical
and Nonclinical Samples
Pninit Russo-Netzer
University of Haifa Galia Moran
Ben-Gurion University of the Negev
Growth following adversity is a well-known phenomenon. Yet studies often focus on specific
populations and/or specific types of adversities, thus limiting opportunities to identify underlying
common processes of growth. The present study sought to identify shared positive change
processes in different samples of individuals each of whom faced life adversities (clinical/
nonclinical) and experienced growth as a result. We conducted a secondary analysis comparing
in-depth interviews from 2 independent study samples including 27 Israeli adults that experi-
enced spiritual growth and 31 American mental health peer-providers in recovery. Using the
grounded theory approach (Strauss & Corbin, 1998), the findings point to existing shared
transformative positive change pertaining to one’s way of being and adhering to a generative
orientation (Erikson, 1963) in the world. These changes were conceptualized under 3 growth
dimensions: (a) strengthened sense of self, manifested in self-integration, self-acceptance, and
enhanced ability to face further adversity; (b) development of compassion, acceptance of others,
and a deep sense of connection to others; and (c) a prosocial commitment characterized by
generativity and active contribution. These findings point to shared growth processes among
individuals with a different backgrounds and different kinds of adversities. This change goes
beyond mere coping, to an inner transformation in one’s self, connection to others, and
development of a proactive-prosocial approach in the world. The implications for health care
practitioners and the importance of acknowledging the potential for growth following adversity
and supporting such growth are discussed.
Supplemental materials:
Despite economic prosperity in past decades, individuals
are increasingly experiencing higher levels of mental
distress (Diener & Seligman, 2004; Twenge, 2000). For
example, depression and anxiety are rising among university stu-
dents (Eisenberg, Gollust, Golberstein, & Hefner, 2007). Accord-
ing to the World Health Organization (WHO), it is anticipated that
by 2020 depression and related mental health problems will rank
second among the leading causes of the global burden of disease,
and reach first place by 2030 (WHO, 2012). Such disconcerting
figures pose major challenges to the field of mental health (Collins
et al., 2011).
Commonly, a discrete approach is taken in diagnoses of mental
health, involving identification of specific types of pathologies and
differentiated treatment plans which can be useful for targeting
specific symptoms. However, such an approach eliminates the
identification of a more holistic view of human growth potential
beyond symptom relief. This holistic approach has been demon-
strated empirically by the “complete mental health” model and
conceptualizes mental health states as part of a continuum rather
than discrete healthy versus pathological conditions (Keyes, 2002,
2007). Mental health states therefore range from the possibility of
flourishing at one end to languishing at the other (Keyes, 2002,
2007). According to this model, mental health is defined not only
as the absence of mental illness but also as the presence of “a state
of well-being in which the individual realizes his or her own
abilities, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work
productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to
his or her community” (WHO, 2004, p. 12). Thus, well-being and
wellness are seen as fundamental to our understanding of mental
health states (e.g., Myers, 1992; Roscoe, 2009), particularly eu-
daimonic orientation to well-being which emphasizes human ful-
fillment and growth (Ryff, 1989; Ryff & Singer, 2008). This study
seeks to explore the common growth processes following adversity
which integrate a holistic approach to the understanding of growth
irrespective of discrete characteristics.
Pninit Russo-Netzer, Department of Counseling and Human Develop-
ment, University of Haifa; Galia Moran, Department of Social Work,
Ben-Gurion University of the Negev.
Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Pninit
Russo-Netzer, University of Haifa, Mount Carmel, Haifa 31905, Israel.
This document is copyrighted by the American Psychological Association or one of its allied publishers.
This article is intended solely for the personal use of the individual user and is not to be disseminated broadly.
American Journal of Orthopsychiatry © 2016 American Orthopsychiatric Association
2016, Vol. 86, No. 6, 000
From Mental Illness to Recovery:
A Holistic Approach
Similar to the complete mental health model, a new approach
has been developed by the field of psychiatric rehabilitation and
recovery. Through the accumulation of personal anecdotes, empir-
ical evidence, and longitudinal studies, it has been found that
long-held, pessimistic, deteriorating, and debilitating prognoses of
severe mental illnesses (e.g., schizophrenia, bipolar, major depres-
sion, etc.) have shifted to a more hopeful and optimistic view of
recovery (Anthony, 1993; Deegan, 1997). In addition, accumulat-
ing efforts have been made to empirically validate the complex and
individual experience of recovery (Andresen, Caputi, & Oades,
2010; Leamy, Slade, LeBoutillier, Williams, & Bird, 2011). Sim-
ilar to Keyes (2002, 2007), these more recent studies showed only
a loose connection between psychiatric symptoms and one’s abil-
ity to regain meaningful roles and reintegrate into the community.
Thus, knowledge of psychiatric diagnosis and treatment may only
partially help in one’s journey back to a meaningful and function-
ing life. As a result, the holistic definition of recovery in the
context of mental illnesses has been defined as “a way of living a
satisfying, hopeful, and contributing life” even with the limitations
caused by illness (Anthony, 1993). The term “recovery” in relation
to mental illness is also used to denote the potential for positive
psychological processes of identity transformation, developing
purpose and meaning in life, empowerment, and community inte-
gration (Deegan, 1997; Onken, Craig, Ridgway, Ralph, & Cook,
2007). Thus, similar to the complete mental health model, a more
holistic view which takes into account sociopsychological aspects
of human mental health and well-being is emphasized in order to
achieve recovery in mental illnesses.
A Growth Orientation for the Study of Holistic
and Complete Mental Health and Recovery
The broader perspective of mental health, human flourishing,
and well-being can be framed under positive psychology (Selig-
man & Csikszentmihalyi, 2000; Seligman, Steen, Park, & Peter-
son, 2005). In essence, it calls for a broader understanding of
human potential through “the study of the conditions and processes
that contribute to the flourishing or optimal functioning of people,
groups, and institutions” (Gable & Haidt, 2005; p. 104). Both the
model of complete mental health (Keyes, 2002, 2007) and the
recovery-oriented approach for mental illness (Anthony, 1993)
highlight a strength perspective of human growth, involving well-
being and life-flourishing as primary focal points, rather than
attending to stress, trauma, dysfunction, and diagnoses (Andresen
et al., 2010; Keyes & Haidt, 2003; Leamy et al., 2011; Ryff &
Singer, 2008). In addition, both fields aim to advance knowledge
and scientific endeavors to the betterment of individuals, institu-
tions, and society (Anthony, 1993; Seligman & Csikszentmihalyi,
2000) and challenge and broaden traditional conceptions of psy-
chological wellness and illness.
In particular, the relevance of positive psychology to recovery
from serious mental illnesses has gained increasing recognition
(Moran & Nemec, 2013; Resnick & Rosenheck, 2006; Slade,
2010) calling for an investigation of mental health recovery in
terms of positive psychological processes generic to all humans,
such as meaning (e.g., Andresen, Caputi, & Oades, 2006) and
well-being (e.g., Clarke, Oades, & Crowe, 2012). Furthermore,
given the challenges of the human mental condition and increasing
rates of mental distress and illness, the present study aims to
understand the underlying positive human processes that may arise
from exploring different types of adversities in a holistic and a
growth- oriented approach. Based on this, our natural starting point
for analysis was through the concept of posttraumatic growth
(PTG; Tedeschi & Calhoun, 1996, 2004).
Post-Traumatic Growth (PTG)
Described and studied by Tedeschi and Calhoun (1996, 2004),
PTG reflects an experience of positive psychological change fol-
lowing a struggle with challenging life circumstances. According
to the theory, adversity and crisis can provide a unique opportunity
for growth and personal development that would not otherwise
occur. PTG has been demonstrated following a range of adver-
sarial events, for example, survivors of multiple natural disasters
(e.g., Marshall, Frazier, Frankfurt, & Kuijer, 2015), severe and
terminal illness (e.g., Hefferon, Grealy, & Mutrie, 2009; Tallman,
Shaw, Schultz, & Altmaier, 2010), violence (e.g., Williams, 2007),
and among war veteran populations (e.g., Aldwin, Levenson, &
Spiro, 1994; Feder et al., 2008), to name a few.
Irrespective of the type of adversity, such experiences challenge
and destabilize the individual’s inner psychological orienting
structures. The traumatic event inherently poses a threat to indi-
viduals’ core beliefs and assumptions regarding the self and the
world. PTG is positively associated with well-being (e.g., Triplett,
Tedeschi, Cann, Calhoun, & Reeve, 2012) and can increase one’s
sense of meaning and purpose in life as reflected in reconstructed
life narratives (McAdams, 2006; Neimeyer, 2001; Tedeschi &
Calhoun, 1995). PTG can develop in forms of increased appreci-
ation of life, improved relationships with others, new possibilities,
an enhanced sense of personal strength, and spiritual change and
development (Marshall et al., 2015; Tallman et al., 2010).
Spirituality is viewed as a personal quest for understanding
ultimate questions concerning meaning and the relationship with
the sacred or transcendent (Koeing, McCullough, & Larson, 2001).
Previous research has shown that dealing with trauma and adver-
sity may initiate a greater engagement with fundamental existential
questions (Tedeschi & Calhoun, 2004) that lead to an increased
interest in spiritual issues (Shaw, Joseph, & Linley, 2005). Ac-
cessing spiritual resources facilitates meaning-making of trauma
and adversity, as well as reconstruction of worldview (Vis &
Boynton, 2008). Spirituality is positively associated with greater
mental and physical well-being (e.g., Van Dierendonck & Mohan,
2006) and serves as a protective factor in psychological adjustment
to negative life experiences (e.g., Young, Cashwell, & Shcherba-
kova, 2000). Thus, spiritual change serves as a unique, multidi-
mensional, and volitional form of individual change considered a
core, universal facet of human development (Wulff, 1997) that
functions as a discrete aspect of positive growth process (Shaw et
al., 2005). Because not all who suffer from a mental illness engage
in peer work, and not all who experience adverse life events
undergo spiritual growth, these samples represent distinct exam-
ples of individuals who thrived and flourished amid salient nega-
tive life experiences.
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The Present Study
Studies from both clinical and nonclinical populations suggest
that regardless of the debilitating negative effects of crisis, trauma,
and human languishing, the potential for human growth and flour-
ishing remains (e.g., Calhoun & Tedeschi, 2006; Keyes, 2002,
2007; Slade, 2010; Vaillant, 2012).Yet, most studies focused on
exploring distinct, homogenous sample characteristics and adver-
sities (e.g., survivors of multiple natural disasters, survivors of
cancer, war veterans) leaving the question of commonalities of
growth processes unattended. Understanding common processes
across types of adversity and populations can contribute to the
identification of generic positive change processes, thus informing
not just the “what” of positive growth, but also the “how.” To this
end, this study focuses on in-depth life story narrative descriptions
of two diverse populations both clinically as well as nationally: a
sample of individuals who reported on a spiritual growth process
(for purposes of the current study they will be named: the spiritual
growth nonclinical sample) and a sample of individuals diagnosed
with severe mental illnesses who are in processes of recovery and
working as mental health peer supporters (named for the purpose
of the current study: the peer providers sample). These particular
samples were selected for investigation because in both positive
growth processes following adverse life events were salient, de-
spite their different life stories and distinct individual characteris-
tics. These aspects enhanced our confidence that much can be
learned about common human growth processes from cross-
comparing these two populations.
Specifically, we were interested in examining the inner psycho-
logical positive change processes that individuals experienced
across the clinical and nonclinical samples. We asked, can we
identify shared processes of positive growth? And if so, what is the
nature of these psychological inner growth processes?
The study employed a secondary qualitative analysis of two
independent sample narratives derived from different studies: a
sample of American mental health peer providers who were inter-
viewed about their recovery experiences and life stories, and an
Israeli sample who were interviewed about their spiritual growth
processes. Cognizant of the limitations that the assessment will be
conducted in retrospect and despite the fact that the interviews
were based on different original research questions, it was decided
to employ secondary analysis to the data sets in order to system-
atically explore and identify commonalities in the positive change
processes across these samples. The rationale for comparing these
samples stemmed from the authors’ recognition of a salient char-
acteristic in both samples—rich descriptions of growth following
difficult and adverse life events.
Secondary analysis in qualitative studies is a known technique
often used to pursue a new research question from data previously
collected to study a different research question or purpose (Hinds,
Vogel, & Clarke-Steffen, 1997). The cross-examination of the two
distinct samples provides an opportunity for a metaview, allowing
a broad and rich understanding of a specific phenomenon as
manifested through the diversity of settings, participants, and
qualitative traditions (Aguirre & Bolton, 2014; McCormick, Rod-
ney, & Varcoe, 2003). In the present study, this method enabled us
to discern and further understand shared growth pertaining to
universal human positive processes. Each sample and its original
study design is briefly described next.
Spiritual Growth Sample
Twenty-seven Israeli individuals were interviewed in a study
exploring processes of spiritual change (i.e., fundamental change
in life views, attitudes, priorities, and behavior). This sample
represents a wide variety of gender, ethnic origins, and socioeco-
nomic status and residence across the country. All participants
were Jewish Israeli, from various ethnic origins (52% “Ashke-
nazi,” i.e., of European American origin, 33% “Mizrahi,” i.e., of
Asian-African origin, and 15% mixed origin). Ages ranged be-
tween 25 and 66 years (M45; SD 11). Fourteen participants
were married, six divorced, six single, and one widowed. Interest-
ingly, all participants of the sample had experienced either nega-
tive life events or adversities which accounted for the positive
growth they experienced in the form of spiritual change. Adver-
sities experienced by the sample ranged from the loss of loved
ones, dealing with terminal illnesses and domestic abuse, to so-
cioeconomic hardships, as well as a loss of meaning and existential
concerns with no apparent external crisis (Russo-Netzer & May-
seless, 2014).
Mental Health Peer Providers
Thirty-one mental health peer providers from the United States
were interviewed twice in a study examining accounts of personal
recovery benefits and life stories of peer workers. Their ages
ranged between 26 and 63 (M45, SD 12), 17 (55%) were
women, 30 (97%) identified as White; 20 (64%) were single, eight
(26%) were married/cohabiting with a significant other, and three
were divorced. Participants had diverse diagnoses—about two
thirds affective (i.e., depression and bipolar disorders) and the rest
had schizophrenia and/or psychotic- related disorders. Participants
were relatively well educated and mostly Caucasian (Moran,
Russinova, Gidugu, Yim, & Sprauge, 2012).
In both samples, semistructured, face-to-face in depth inter-
views were conducted, lasting between 1 and 3.5 hr. All interviews
were audio-recorded and transcribed verbatim. For both studies,
institutional ethics committees granted approval and participants
signed informed-consent forms before participating. Both studies
provided rich accounts of processes of positive change in the
aftermath of varying types of life stressors/crises and displayed the
participants’ own voices regarding the phenomenon. For example,
the mental health peer providers were asked: “Was there a signif-
icant time or event in your work as a peer provider that contributed
to your recovery?” the Israeli interviewees were asked, “What
made this change possible?” Both samples were asked open ques-
tions in order to identify idiographic, subjective experience, “Can
you describe that particular experience/incident in more detail?”;
“What was it like?”; or “Can you give an example?” (van Manen,
1990). The transcriptions of the interviews with Israeli participants
were translated from Hebrew by the first author who was the
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interviewer and is fluent in English and Hebrew, and a native
English speaker who was bilingual in Hebrew verified correspon-
dence with the original version of the transcriptions.
Data Analysis
Data analysis unfolded in stages. First, as both authors were the
original principal investigator researchers of the studies, we had
access to the raw data and were well versed in the contexts of the
narratives allowing in depth acquaintance with each life story
narrative. The authors could thus approach the narratives while
examining them from the perspective of a new research question
while maintaining contextual and nuanced understanding. Al-
though coming from different fields of study (counseling and
positive psychology, and clinical psychology with a focus on
psychiatric rehabilitation, respectively), both researchers are white,
female, and interested in positive human development processes.
Both are secular with no specific spiritual practice, and maintain
Israeli nationality. This stance sensitizes them to detect subtle
positive processes even amid negative life events, which can be
valuable and enhance the quality of analysis. At the same time, this
very same stance renders the researchers to potential biases
thereby attributing overly positive processes in the participants’
interview descriptions. Authors were aware of this potential bias,
and strived to minimize this risk as much as possible, by reading
and rereading the interviews while conducting critical inquiries of
specific takes on parts of the analysis between the researchers. This
process of recurring discussions involving in-depth clarifications,
going back to the texts to verify insights and then reconvening,
enhanced the credibility of the qualitative examination. Further-
more, it was ensured that interpretations and findings were
grounded in direct and rich excerpts from the interviews, providing
a thick description of the phenomenon in the participants’ own
words (Lincoln & Guba, 1985; Stiles, 1993).
Second, following these informal discussions and brief reassess-
ments of the interview data in each sample, the researchers grew
confident in the existence of shared positive human growth expe-
riences in these two distinct samples worth further exploration. To
compare the samples, the interview data were analyzed using
procedures consistent with the grounded theory approach (Corbin
& Strauss, 1990; Patton, 2002). The process of data analysis was
spiral and iterative, engaging both within-case analysis of each
account as a stand-alone entity and cross-case comparisons to
identify common experiences (Strauss & Corbin, 1990) synergis-
tically (Ayres, Kavanaugh, & Knafl, 2003). The authors each
reread their interview transcripts from an open, fresh perspective,
guided by the question: are there shared positive change processes
in the diverse samples? And if so, what do they involve? They
identified meaning units—significant parts in the narratives that
provided an understanding related to the study question—and
established an initial list of codes. Through a series of repeated
meetings and rereadings of the interviews, the authors further
searched for interrelations, similarities, and dissimilarities across
samples, which involved a conceptual process of clustering and
breaking of categories and themes. Thus, coding was an iterative
process of conceptual development involving a series of intensive
discussion meetings between the researchers, followed by return-
ing to the respective texts, verifying the conceptual developments,
and returning with further modification and clarification of emerg-
ing shared codes. In this process, meaning units were integrated
into core themes, reflecting a higher level of abstraction and
allowing for comparison between the different texts (Strauss &
Corbin, 1998), resulting in solidification and conceptualization of
higher-order categories and relations between concepts (e.g.,
Strauss & Corbin, 1998).
Both samples demonstrated positive change and growth follow-
ing adversity, which largely relate to meaning-making and en-
hancement of one’s sense of self. A transformative experience in
one’s way of being in the world is conceptualized across three
broad categories: (a) a strengthened sense of self—self-integration
and enhanced ability to face further adversity; (b) a deepened
relational approach— enhanced compassion, acceptance, and a
sense of deep connection with others; and (c) commitment to
generativity and contribution.
The first domain was described by participants from both sam-
ples as a strengthened sense of self that permeates their existence
and way of being in the world. This inner development was
manifested in two complementary processes: (a) holistic self-
integration and self-acceptance of contradicting and/or hurt aspects
of the self, and (b) enhanced capability to face adversity and life
challenges by employing a new way of interpreting reality. The
second domain appears to transcend close and intimate relation-
ships, reflecting a profound transformation in one’s basic percep-
tions manifested in a decentralized ego and gained wisdom result-
ing in enhanced compassion, acceptancem and sense of connection
with others. Finally, the participants voiced commitment to gen-
erativity and contribution emphasizing an active prosocial ap-
proach. As can be learned from the participants’ own words, they
evolved from self-centered processes into a strong drive and desire
to benefit others. Commitment to be of service to others is de-
scribed by participants in both samples as providing them with a
sense of meaning and purpose. The results involve rich and elab-
orate narrative excerpts from both samples which can be fully
appreciated in the integral supplemental material. Here we present
a summary table of the findings with demonstrative quotes for
each domain across samples (Table 1).
This study sought to identify common processes of positive
change following adversity, using an in-depth life stories inter-
views from two different samples experiencing growth from ad-
versities. The findings elucidate similar powerful positive trans-
formations, despite diverse sample characteristics (mental health
condition, cultural background, demographics etc.) and diverse
types of adverse life experiences. These findings highlight the
value of exploring positive processes with populations experienc-
ing psychiatric disorders. While often the focus of study with this
population is on pathology, this study supports the possibility to
identify positive aspects of growth that can promote thinking and
practice related to recovery (Moran & Nemec, 2013; Resnick &
Rosenheck, 2006). Overall, this study illuminates underlying psy-
chological growth processes and a generic capacity to not only
cope well in response to a given adverse condition, but also to
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Table 1. Demonstrative Quotes of the Three Growth Domains
Themes Spiritual growth sample Mental health peer provider sample
Theme I: Strengthened sense of self
I.1. Holistic self-integration and
I have had so many parts within me that I refused
to acknowledge . . . like my anger, my
aggression, even my cruelty. These things were
the most difficult to encounter, but once I did,
so much space cleared up. All those weights
that I carried, I’ve learned to treat them as part
of reality, as my growth space and not as my
enemy . . . I let go of control and met these
parts within me of hard feelings, of my
weaknesses, of death wishes, and it is a
corrective experience because once you validate
these parts within you, when you accept them
rather than struggle, you finally feel whole.
[Amit, 51]
I’ve gotten to a place where I know where to put them
[psychotic experiences], I know how to understand
them, I see what they do to my being, and I know
the proper place in my being for that. The metaphor
that I use is when Jesus says that the stone that the
builders rejected was the most important one of all.
It’s like, I don’t want to just get rid of this
[psychiatric illness]. I find the right place in my
being for it, and it’s okay. It’s good. It’s part of me.
[Charles, 24]
I.2. Ability to better face adversity
and life challenges by
employing a new way of
interpreting reality
I’ve learned through this process that what
matters most in life is the way you interpret
what happens to you. I see people that
whenever something bad happens to them, they
interpret that as ’I have no luck in life, I am
miserable, life is horrible’, and a spiritual
perspective allows a different interpretation, of
viewing something that happens to you as a
lesson, an opportunity, a space for growth, and
when you treat things that way they really
change in reality, not just in the way you
experience them. It gives you more strength to
deal with that. Whenever I fall, I am more able
to make something meaningful out of it, to
gather all the pieces and create something new
out of that [Ziva, 44]
By putting me through all that [the symptoms of her
mental illness], has taught me a lot about resilience
. . . resiliency is one of the attributes that comes
with this illness. You’re a bouncy ball, and you just
keep bouncing . . . this illness has been the biggest
challenge because I’ve been able to approach it and
decide how I’m going to deal with it. It’s going to
flatten me or I’m going to recover. I’m going to
move on. I’m going to learn from it. Or I’m going
to be bitter and resentful and hate everything. That’s
been an option, too. And, of late, it has become an
asset. It’s really become something that I’m proud
of [Sally, 41]
Theme II: Enhanced compassion,
acceptance and sense of
connection with others
First and foremost it is about being a human
being . . . to remember that the person in front
of you is a human being, who has feelings and
thoughts and dreams, who is scared and sad
and happy, who loves and hates and sometimes
depressed like you . . . when I face another
person then we can really be in a dialogue as
equals, because what happens in many
relationships is that we think we are better or
not as good as the other person and that has a
lot of impact on the dialogue. I am more open
to others, I have more patience [Shay, 34]
. . . I learned so much from others. And the mutuality,
I look for it in my relationships with my peers. And
also with other humans . . . I guess I’ve taken it a
step further to recognize that as human beings, we
all have some suffering. We all have obstacles to
overcome. I guess it helps me look for what I have
in common with others, as opposed to differences
[Mark, 35]
Theme III: Commitment to
generativity and contribution
There is no bigger happiness than touching other
people’s lives and to be a living proof that
there is hope and that there is something to
strive for . . . there is a meaning to life. My
whole life has changed and I want to give
back, I want to do things that matter. Things
that have meaning and can help as many
people as possible . . . That makes my life
meaningful, that I know I have a role here that
I can’t take for granted. We all have limited
time in this world and if I won’t use it for
doing things that can benefit other people, the
world, then I am wasting it [Rachel, 56]
You walk around with these skeletons rattling in your
closet for all these years, and then here comes an
opportunity where I’m able to come out of the
closet and then to help other people in their
recovery. So that, to me, was more meaningful than
anything I’ve ever done in the past. This was
meaningful because it encompassed me as a person.
It’s like my life experience was being used. [John,
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thrive (e.g., Deci & Ryan, 2000; Keyes, 2002, 2007; Seligman &
Csikszentmihalyi, 2000).
The current findings reveal transformational processes of
growth which penetrate one’s basic sense of being and experiential
outlook on the world. Some of these processes are similar to PTG,
demonstrating increased appreciation for life, more meaningful
interpersonal relationships, and an increased sense of personal
strength (Tedeschi & Calhoun, 1996, 2004). Distinct from PTG
and other growth-related phenomena (e.g., Davis, Nolen-
Hoeksema, & Larson, 1998; Masten, 2001; Tedeschi & Calhoun,
1996), the current study emphasizes holistic, experiential dynamic
intrapersonal multifaceted processes which account for growth.
Participants’ processes involved transformational changes includ-
ing: a transformed sense of self, view of the other, and a devel-
opment of a generative active stance. While these processes are
often interrelated, and sometimes may seem to unfold in a linear
fashion (from “self” to “other” to “generativity”), they could also
at times be described as occurring independently, or concurringly.
In the “self’ domain individuals evolved from having shattered and
fragmented selves into developing an integrated and strengthened
sense of self. This positive change in the self involved an increas-
ing ability to interpret negative events in multiple perspectives
while employing positive reinterpretations. Such a reappraisal is
crucial for the development of agency and ego-resiliency against
subsequent stressors that the individual may be exposed to (Bauer,
McAdams, & Pals, 2008; Tugade & Fredrickson, 2004).
Humanistic conceptualizations of the self, and particularly those
identified with Maslow and Rogers, emphasize the self as being or
becoming (Polkinghorne, 2001), and existential thought further
added the inherent responsibility to create, transform, and re-create
the self embedded in one’s involved in this dynamic process
(Schneider & May, 1995). The findings of the present study appear
to provide a clear embodiment of such humanistic and existential
perspectives: the participants’ self is experienced by them as
dynamic and unfolding, yet stable and coherent, involving per-
sonal responsibility (Hoffman, Stewart, Warren, & Meek, 2009).
Such a process is accompanied with an ongoing reflectivity that
appears to yield self-acceptance of both personal strengths and
weaknesses as integral of being whole, which contributes to de-
veloping a sense of ego integrity (Erikson, 1963).
Furthermore, both samples illustrate the development of a eude-
monic orientation (rather than toward hedonic pleasure or mere
comfort; Lent, 2004; Ryan & Deci, 2001). This is reflected in
participants’ developed attentiveness to their authentic inner voice,
which is experienced as independent to external stimuli, rewards,
and/or gratifications. Eudaimonic individuals are able to postpone
immediate gratification for the attainment of more distal goals
(e.g., Maslow, 1962; Ryan & Deci, 2001), which signifies a shift
from mere survival mode to reconstruction of one’s self identity
and life meaning with regard to greater purpose. Once equipped
with this intensified sense of purpose and meaning, Frankl (1985)
claimed that a person would be able to withstand any life situation,
irrespective of the suffering it may present. This is evident in the
participants’ openness to embracing life’s challenges once under-
standing the growth and meaning that resulted from their adverse
Alongside psychological transformational growth, participants
also reported development of the “other domain,” where partici-
pants showed a growing capability of acceptance of and compas-
sion toward others, and enhanced sense of interconnectedness with
others. Such developments appeared to further support partici-
pants’ meaning-making processes and contributed to their
strengthened sense of self. In this sense, the inner psychological
realm of the self can be understood as cocreated through the
process of self-other reference (Becker, 1992). Such inner deep
connection to other human beings is recognized in therapeutic and
additional healing contexts where relationships between two
equivalent partners are acknowledged as engaged in making sense
together (Auerbach & Blatt, 2001; Buirski & Haglund, 2001).
Finally, participants’ compassionate worldview and active en-
gagement in voluntary or help-giving roles reveal commitment to
contribute to the greater good and humanity as a whole. Thus, one
grows by developing personal meaning, which extends to one’s
deep understanding of others as equals and elicits the desire to give
back. The commitment to others that was present in both samples
suggests it to be a significant component of positive growth in
diverse populations. Such adoption of generative roles is in line
with previous research recognizing the value of help-giving to the
giver themselves (e.g., Ratzlaff, McDiarmid, Marty, & Rapp,
2006; Salzer & Shear, 2002). Indeed, altruistic acts have been
associated with increased levels of mental health, above and be-
yond the benefits of receiving help (Schwartz, Meisenhelder, Ma,
& Reed, 2003). By extending self-interest, one may deepen self-
discovery (Post, 2005). Erikson (1950)’s theory of generativity (vs.
stagnation) further elaborates this view, defining it as a psychos-
ocial development stage involving a shift from self-focus to others
with “a concern for establishing and guiding the next generation.”
Mansfield and McAdams (1996) suggested that highly generative
adults combine orientations toward agency and communion, as
they exhibit an ability to generate outputs which extend the self in
a powerful way (agency) and to contribute to others with the
purpose of assisting and benefiting them (communion).
Table 1 (continued)
Themes Spiritual growth sample Mental health peer provider sample
I have been given a gift, and within this
experience things that used to be at the center
of your life become insignificant and something
else occupies the stage. This is the essence of
why this gift is so great. It teaches you that
giving, being kind to others is the most
fulfilling thing. It is a blessed commitment to
make humanity better. [Mira, 57]
Eventually I guess my dream would be to carry the
message of hope and try to inspire people to get
what they want out of life and share whatever skills,
resources, and supports that I have in my own life
[Mark, 35]
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This article is intended solely for the personal use of the individual user and is not to be disseminated broadly.
The eudemonic generative orientation identified in the current
study was manifested not only cognitively (i.e., viewing challeng-
ing situations as opportunities, endorsing certain values) and emo-
tionally (i.e., deep compassion and acceptance) but also in action,
thereby providing participants with a sense of direction and overall
purpose (i.e., implementing prosocial values in reality, as a peer-
provider or a volunteer). In this sense, we agree that generativity
may function as a pathway from suffering to meaning (de St.
Aubin, 2013). Moreover, this engagement in generative action
seems to lead to further enhancement of one’s sense of self.
Accumulating studies demonstrate that generative strivings are
positively associated with personal well-being (e.g., Keyes & Ryff,
1998) and meaning in life (e.g., Emmons, 2003; Nielsen, 2014).
More specifically, in the context of mental illness, this can also be
understood as a unique type of vocational recovery (Dunn,
Wewiorski, & Rogers, 2010). In this sense, it is suggested that by
being a contributive member of society, persons in recovery work-
ing as peer providers may cultivate their “internal strength” and
reconstruct a sense of self which further promotes their recovery
process (Auerbach & Richardson, 2005). Similar processes are
evident among the nonclinical sample which demonstrate the
versatility of human capability to grow above and beyond given
adverse circumstances and develop a sense of meaning, efficacy,
fulfillment, and self-worth (e.g., Baum & Neuberger, 2014; Bond,
Overall, the findings of the present study contribute to the
understanding of the possibilities to thrive and attain a meaningful
life in the face of life’s challenges. This is reflected first and
foremost in the participants’ intentional choice to acknowledge the
possibility embedded in experienced adversity to create something
new and beneficial, rather than succumbing to the conditions that
encompassed them at the time. The insights gained in the study are
thus in line with current calls advocating an integrated view of
positive mental health (Keyes, 2007; Vaillant, 2012) as well as in
mental illnesses (Thornicroft & Slade, 2014).
Limitations and Suggestions for
Further Research
The study findings are preliminary and involve several limita-
tions. First, secondary qualitative analysis, while allowing us to
examine new and fresh research questions, is, at the same time,
limited by the nature of the participants who were recruited for
different research questions and purposes (Hinds et al., 1997).
Thus, we are cautious that the original study questions may have
constrained the scope of population sampling, limiting access to
the breadth of positive growth processes following adversity. Spe-
cifically, it is possible that individuals in the spirituality sample
represent a subgroup who have experienced adversities and thrived
through meaning-making processes related to spirituality. How-
ever, other individuals from the general population who face
adversities may thrive in other ways. In a similar vein, the mental
health peer provider sample consisted only of peer providers.
Other individuals with mental illnesses may find other channels
through which they recover a meaningful life and thrive. Finally,
this study illuminated a specific kind of growth which, although
cross-cultural, is still represented by samples from two Western-
oriented cultures. Future studies may address a broader spectrum
of cultures and nationalities. For example, given that generativity
rests more on collectivist values, we may assume that this pattern
of growth may be even more pronounced in Eastern cultures.
Summary and Practical Implications
Overall, the current findings convey the richness and multidi-
mensionality of individuals’ lived experiences of positive growth
following diverse adversities as shared human phenomena. To-
gether, the findings suggest a personal growth process that em-
braces self-integration and resiliency, allowing the development of
a mature identity which transcends self-focus to caring for others.
These findings highlight the value of exploring possibilities of
individuals with mental illnesses to thrive despite having a psy-
chiatric disorder, and thus point to a new potential direction of
hypotheses that are driven by a positive approach. Furthermore,
systems, professionals, and nonprofessionals providing services to
individuals with serious mental illness (SMI) can benefit service
users by addressing the potential of growth processes and enabling
conditions (e.g., constructive meaningful roles) to thrive and fulfill
one’s human potential despite mental illness. Similar to nonclinical
populations, eliciting awareness and self-reflection in mental
health service users may facilitate discourse related to the three
growth domains (self, other, and generativity).
In practicality, this means attending to subjective ways in which
individuals conceptualize their coping and meaning-making re-
lated to adverse events and processes. In addition, enabling op-
portunities for help-giving support positive change processes fol-
lowing adversity. In particular, for people with psychiatric
disabilities, identifying structured generative roles (not just as peer
providers) that are meaningful to them could serve as a spring-
board for their rehabilitation, recovery, and, ultimately, growth
Keywords: positive change and growth; qualitative study; sense
of self; mental health recovery; spirituality
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... Most studies were conducted within the United States (n = 12). Four studies explicitly evaluated or described the concept of generativity (Bromley et al., 2013;Moran et al., 2012aMoran et al., , 2012bRusso-Netzer & Moran, 2018). ...
... Themes describing facilitators of generativity included individual-level and organizational-level factors. With respect to individual-level facilitators, the motivation to engage in generative actions was described as important in studies evaluating providers of peer support (Einat, 2017;Moran et al., 2012b;Russo-Netzer & Moran, 2018); recipients of peer support (Austin et al., 2014;Coatsworth-Puspoky et al., 2006); and members of mutual support groups Bromley et al., 2013;Finn et al., 2009;Whitley et al., 2008). One study exploring how recipients perceived peer relationships also described how helping others in need depended on participants' "level of wellness" (Coatsworth-Puspoky et al., 2006). ...
... This article is intended solely for the personal use of the individual user and is not to be disseminated broadly. (Austin et al., 2014;Boardman et al., 2015;Einat, 2017;Johnson et al., 2014;Moran et al., 2012aMoran et al., , 2012bRusso-Netzer & Moran, 2018;Salzer et al., 2013); five included recipients of peer support (Coatsworth-Puspoky et al., 2006;Meehan et al., 2002;Russinova et al., 2014;Salzer et al., 2016;Vayshenker et al., 2016); and five included members of mutual support groups Bromley et al., 2013;Finn et al., 2009;Galanter, 1988;Whitley et al., 2008). Only four studies explicitly investigated or described the concept of generativity (Bromley et al., 2013;Moran et al., 2012aMoran et al., , 2012bRusso-Netzer & Moran, 2018). ...
Objective: People with lived experience of mental illness or distress can help others recover through peer or mutual support. One way they may help others recover is by fostering generativity, which refers to one's concern for and contributions toward the betterment of others, including future generations (e.g., through caregiving, engaging in civics). Generativity may add purpose to one's life, benefit society, and improve areas which persons with lived experience feel are important for their recovery. Despite its importance, the state of knowledge on experiences and facilitators of generativity, as well as the impact that engaging in generativity has on the lives of persons engaged in peer or mutual support, is unclear. Method: A librarian-assisted scoping review of the literature was conducted in five steps: identifying the research question and relevance; selecting studies; charting data; and coding and summarizing the results. Results: Out of 11,862 articles that were screened, only 18 met eligibility criteria. Most studies were conducted in the United States and included White/Caucasian participants. Our synthesis produced themes related to generative actions, which included helping others, changing organizations and systems, and sharing personal stories. Themes describing facilitators of generativity included individual-level and organizational-level factors. One theme reflecting the positive psychosocial impact of engaging in generativity was produced. Conclusions and implications for practice: Findings from this study point to several knowledge gaps to be investigated in future research and can facilitate the implementation of peer support initiatives aimed at fostering generativity, which may in turn promote recovery. (PsycInfo Database Record (c) 2021 APA, all rights reserved).
... Peers, who draw on their own lived experience to support others, are powerful living examples of how the aftermath of a psychosis may not necessarily be permentantly characterised by despair (Davidson et al. 2012). Peer support workers may experience posttraumatic growth through their profession, which may be modelled in interactions with people in need Russo-Netzer and Moran, 2018). Many peers also role model how one can chart new meaningful life directions and improve the lives of others, following psychosis, thereby demonstrating what posttraumatic growth may in fact resemble . ...
Psychosis is often a traumatic experience that can lead to significant suffering. However, people may also experience posttraumatic growth following psychosis. Posttraumatic growth refers to the positive changes that people experience following a struggle with an adversarial event and has been shown to occur in at least five domains, including a greater appreciation for life; improved relationships with others; greater personal strengths; new life possibilities and spiritual/existential growth. Studies have shown that mental health services can play a key role in facilitating posttraumatic growth. However, there are no recommendations that clinicians can follow to best support posttraumatic growth following psychosis specifically. Without guidance, clinicians risk invalidating people's experiences of, or providing improper support for, posttraumatic growth. To address this knowledge gap, we reflect on current research and clinical guidelines to recommend ways that clinicians can support posttraumatic growth following psychosis.
... Overall, the intrapersonal variables investigated as correlates of grit may share (a) an association with well-being insofar as they reflect the positive relational, autonomy, sense of purpose, personal mastery, personal growth, and personal development aspects of Ryff's (2014) model of well-being and (b) a shared element of resilience (i.e., adapting/recovering successfully from setbacks). For example, in regards to resilience, boldness may be indicative of those who have an emotional capacity to move forward following setbacks (Nowakowski & Wróbel, 2021), self-efficacy entails a belief that one can successfully complete challenging tasks (Bandura, 1977), and personal growth involves a goal orientation toward improving one's position, including after adversity (Russo-Netzer & Moran, 2018).Each of these variables also appear particularly relevant to the developmental tasks of adolescence, including personal growth and increased autonomy. Given the central focus of grit in this study, we also examined its relation to adjustment from the perspective of multiple informants and as a protective factor against maladjustment for youth who have experienced adverse events. ...
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This study examined intrapersonal correlates of adolescent- and parent-reported grit, as well as grit as a protective factor in the relation between adverse experiences and adjustment in a sample of at-risk youth. Data were collected from 110 parent-adolescent dyads (71.8% males). Adolescents ranged in age from 16 to 19 years and were attending a residential military-style intervention program. Parent reports of adolescents’ grit were moderately correlated with adolescents’ self-reported grit. Within informants, adolescent grit was correlated with better adjustment. Adolescent self-reported grit was also moderately correlated with boldness and personal growth. In a simultaneous regression model, self-efficacy and personal growth contributed unique variance to scores on self-reported grit, and personal growth significantly moderated the relation between adolescent grit and self-reported psychosocial adjustment; however, grit did not moderate the relation between adverse experiences and adjustment. Implications of these results for further understanding resilience in at-risk youth are discussed.
... 20 Although the early COVID-19 pandemic brought much negative outcome on individuals, 3,5,6 some have post-traumatic growth 36 which refers to positive changes that share a common factor of struggling with trauma, adversity, or stress. [37][38][39][40] The objective of our study was to assess non-inferiority of CSI compared to GC with regard to changes in post-traumatic growth, well-being, and depression among university students during the COVID-19 pandemic. Such information can provide needed empirical data in support of the use of CSI as an alternative to GC in resource-constrained settings and situations. ...
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Purpose: This study assessed the effects of character strengths-based invention (CSI) vs group counseling (GC) on mental health outcomes (ie, post-traumatic growth, well-being, and depression) among university students in Guangdong Province, China. Materials and Methods: We conducted a randomized non-inferiority trial among 124 undergraduates at a medical university during the COVID-19 pandemic. We randomly allocated students to receive either CSI (n=62) or GC (n=62). A qualified psychologist delivered both activities on campus during two consecutive weekends with a total of 7.5 hours and also gave assignments to students during weekdays. We measured the outcomes at pre-intervention, post-intervention, and 1-month follow-up. We then analyzed data using descriptive statistics and a general linear mixed model. Results: CSI and GC groups had similar baseline characteristics. Both CSI and GC experienced an increase in post-traumatic growth and well-being. The mean±SD scores for post-traumatic growth were significantly higher in CSI compared to GC groups (87.70± 14.22 vs 78.15± 20.72, respectively), whereas well-being scores were similar between CSI and GC (82.58± 16.57 vs 83.68± 15.59, respectively). Neither CSI nor GC experienced a reduction in depression scores. Conclusion: CSI had non-inferior effects compared to GC with regards to improvement of post-traumatic growth and well-being during the COVID-19 pandemic. However, caveats regarding lack of blinding of investigator and limited generalizability should be considered in the interpretation of the study findings.
... Transformative learning (e.g., Cranton, 1996;Mezirow, 1996), thus, generally refers to the process of effecting change in frames of reference through critical reflection on underlying beliefs, habits of mind or points of view, or through an intuitive and emotional process (Dirkx et al., 2006). In a broader sense, previous research suggests that such events may shake one's worldview and provide an opportunity for schema reconstruction, a new narrative about life goals, and a (Calhoun & Tedeschi, 2006;Russo-Netzer & Davidov, 2020;Russo-Netzer & Moran, 2017). PTG can develop in forms of increased appreciation of life, improved relationships with others, new possibilities, an enhanced sense of personal strength, and spiritual change and development (Marshall et al., 2015;Tallman et al., 2010). ...
The purpose of this study is to offer a systematic phenomenological approach to explore existential anxiety, typically defined as the experience of becoming aware of the universal concerns including death, meaninglessness, freedom and loneliness. It focuses on in-depth exploration of Transformative Life Experiences (TLE), events which often induce radical and profound reorganization of one’s life. Data was collected through in-depth interviews with 150 adults who self-identified and accounted for a TLE in their lives. Data analysis was guided by a hermeneutic phenomenology paradigm that postulates that people account for their experience within the four lifeworld existentials of temporality, spatiality, corporality (embodiment), and relationality. A heuristic model was developed as an attempt to bridge the gap between the theoretical notion of existential anxiety and how it is subjectively experienced by interviewees. Implications of the model for further research and practice are discussed, particularly the ability to identify a dominant universal concern, even when implicit, based on an exploration of one's subjective account of TLE.
Single mothers’ insurmountable life challenges and stressors may negatively influence the quality of the mother-child relationship and family functioning and may lead to child maltreatment or possibly maternal filicide. A theo-educational-based parenting experience (TPE) intervention may be beneficial in decreasing negative outcomes for the child(ren) that are exposed to the mothers’ high-risk behaviors. However, high-risk single mothers do not engage in spiritual/religious (S/R) processes that will help them navigate through risk contexts to address problematic parenting. This study evaluated the effects of a TPE through a 12-week group parenting session process for high-risk single mothers of children less than 8 years old that focused on enhancing the mothers’ self-awareness, attitudes, thinking, and understanding of their parental role.
Vajrayana Buddhism, like all of the world’s major religions, places high importance on the ancient practice of pilgrimage for spiritual development and maintenance of spiritual health. The negative mental health impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic reveal the need for exploring efficacious methods of religious coping, especially those closely associated with culture and tradition. This qualitative hermeneutical study was aimed at examining the impact of prior pilgrimage participation upon individuals experiencing the COVID-19 pandemic. Nine interviews were conducted with participants who had completed pilgrimage in the Vajrayana Buddhist tradition and were enduring the COVID-19 pandemic while embedded in western culture. Results elucidated the mechanisms and impacts of pilgrimage components upon multidimensional aspects of participants. Beneficial effects of pilgrimage on mental well-being were found including resilience building enacted through enhanced religious and spiritual coping and promotion of integration.
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Using Critical Race Theory, this article presents findings from a hermeneutic phenomenological study to explore the leadership experiences of five African-American men in senior-level positions in predominately White organizations (PWO) located in the U.S. This study will show that as a result of the intersectionality of race, gender, and religion, African-American male leaders encounter various challenges born out of White privilege expressed through racially insensitive micro-aggressions. A phenomenological interpretative analysis of participants’ semi-structured interviews concluded that African-American spirituality provided the self-determination and resiliency to transcend fluid racial narratives, ideologies, and discourse embedded in the culture of a PWO. Findings from this study broaden contemporary leadership theory taking into account the intersecting cultural dynamics and experiences of successful African-American male leaders who integrate spirituality into their leadership practice.
Conference Paper
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Intersubjectivity theory holds that the self forms through relationships with others in a dialectic process. Although affect attunement is central to early self-other differentiation, infants do not see themselves as separate entities until 18 months and their minds as separate until approximately age 4. Transitional object relatedness thus often influences early childhood functioning. In self disorders, childhood disruptions in intersubjectivity create disturbances in integrating transitional fantasy with realistic cognition, such that one's own mental states are often confused with others'. In treatment, self-other differentiation is aided by adaptive projective identification, in which patients find in their therapists their own positive qualities and then reappropriate them in more integrated ways. Case material from a research study of significant-figure descriptions in long-term psychoanalytically oriented treatment illustrates this process.
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There is a stark disconnect between what most of us think will make us happier and what research shows will actually make us happier. Most of us believe that material or monetary increases will improve our happiness the most (Dunn et al. 2008), whereas a growing body of research shows that the deepest and most stable levels of happiness come from having meaning in our lives (Veenhoven 2012; Post 2011; Post and Neimark 2007; Seligman 2002). But what exactly does it mean to have meaning in our lives? This existential question is examined through the lenses of, in particular, positive psychology research and philosophical induction. It is proposed that individual meaning-making might not be so subjective an exercise as existentialism generally would suggest. Multidisciplinary research evidence is used to argue that the major religions might have been right all along with regard to one core message at least: that the meaning of life is to love one another. Defining love, in its essence, as an expression of giving, generosity, and altruism, it is also suggested that situating altruism and generous behavior in an evidence-based theory and practice, rather than solely in ideology and religion, is urgently needed to build bridges between competing agendas, ideologies, and religions. As such, a philosophy and pedagogy of giving, or love, could shed more light on not only the links between positive psychology and existentialism, but also between fanatic and fundamentalist views and practices, still so present in our world today.
The study of resilience in development has overturned many negative assumptions and deficit-focused models about children growing up under the threat of disadvantage and adversity. The most surprising conclusion emerging from studies of these children is the ordinariness of resilience. An examination of converging findings from variable-focused and person-focused investigations of these phenomena suggests that resilience is common and that it usually arises from the normative functions of human adaptational systems, with the greatest threats to human development being those that compromise these protective systems. The conclusion that resilience is made of ordinary rather than extraordinary processes offers a more positive outlook on human development and adaptation, as well as direction for policy and practice aimed at enhancing the development of children at risk for problems and psychopathology. The study of resilience in development has overturned many negative assumptions and deficit-focused models about children growing up under the threat of disadvantage and adversity.
Drawing from the author's psychological research on especially generative (that is, caring and productive) midlife American adults and on a reading of American cultural history and literature, this book identifies a prototypical story of the good life that many Americans employ to make sense of who they are, who they have been, and who they will be in the future. The central theme in this story is redemption - the deliverance from suffering to a positive status or outcome. Empirical research suggests that highly generative American adults are much more likely than their less generative counterparts to construe their lives as tales of redemption. Redemptive life stories promote psychological well-being, physical health, and the adult's commitment to making a positive contribution to society. But stories of redemption are as much cultural texts as they are individual psychological constructions. From the spiritual autobiographies composed by the Massachusetts Bay Puritans to the most recent episodes of the Oprah Winfrey Show, common scripts for the redemptive self may be found in religious accounts of conversion and atonement, the rags-to-riches stories of the American dream, and canonical cultural narratives about personal liberation, freedom, and recovery. The book examines the psychological and cultural dynamics of redemptive life narratives, including the role of American religion and self-help as sources for the construction of life stories and the broad similarities, as well as the striking differences in how African-American and Euro-American adults construct redemptive stories of the self. For all their psychological and cultural power, redemptive life stories sometimes reveal important limitations in American identity. For example, some versions of the redemptive self underscore the naïve expectation that suffering will always be overcome and the arrogance of seeing one's own life as the living out of a personal manifest destiny.