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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    • "Throughout life, individuals must adapt to challenges in their environment, which may be minor such as daily hassles, or major such as life transitions and traumatic events (including the transition to university;Shaver et al., 1985). People show remarkable ability to adjust to significant life events (e.g.,Frederick and Loewenstein, 1999;Bonanno, 2004) and often do so much faster than they anticipate (Gilbert et al., 1998). How do everyday thoughts help or hinder such adjustment? "
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    ABSTRACT: Estimates suggest that up to half of waking life is spent daydreaming; that is, engaged in thought that is independent of, and unrelated to, one’s current task. Emerging research indicates that daydreams are predominately social suggesting that daydreams may serve socio-emotional functions. Here we explore the functional role of social daydreaming for socio-emotional adjustment during an important and stressful life transition (the transition to university) using experience-sampling with 103 participants over 28 days. Over time, social daydreams increased in their positive characteristics and positive emotional outcomes; specifically, participants reported that their daydreams made them feel more socially connected and less lonely, and that the content of their daydreams became less fanciful and involved higher quality relationships. These characteristics then predicted less loneliness at the end of the study, which, in turn was associated with greater social adaptation to university. Feelings of connection resulting from social daydreams were also associated with less emotional inertia in participants who reported being less socially adapted to university. Findings indicate that social daydreaming is functional for promoting socio-emotional adjustment to an important life event. We highlight the need to consider the social content of stimulus-independent cognitions, their characteristics, and patterns of change, to specify how social thoughts enable socio-emotional adaptation.
    Full-text · Article · Jan 2016 · Frontiers in Psychology
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    • "This article is intended solely for the personal use of the individual user and is not to be disseminated by Bonanno and colleagues has revealed, the downstream effects of adversity are surprisingly heterogeneous, with many people successfully moving beyond the initial difficulties posed by their dilemmas (Bonanno, 2004;Bonanno & Diminich, 2013). Given that one central ingredient to resilience is the building and reinforcing of social support (Bonanno, Galea, Bucciarelli, & Vlahov, 2007), compassion, because of its ability to foster prosocial behavior (Condon & DeSteno, 2011;), may stand as an adaptive mechanism by which social capital can be enhanced (cf.DeSteno, 2015;DeSteno, Condon, & Dickens, in press). "
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    ABSTRACT: Experiencing past adversity traditionally has been linked to negative life outcomes. However, emerging evidence suggests that heterogeneity exists with respect to links between adversity and resilience, with adversity often enhancing cooperation in the face of joint suffering. Here, the authors present 2 studies designed to examine if the severity of past adversity is associated with an enduring propensity for empathy-mediated compassion, and, if so, whether the resulting compassion directly is, in turn, linked to behavior meant to relieve the suffering of others. Using both MTurk and laboratory-based paradigms, the authors find that increasing severity of past adversity predicts increased empathy, which in turn, is linked to a stable tendency to feel compassion for others in need. In addition, they demonstrate that the resulting individual differences in compassion appear to engender behavioral responses meant to assist others (i.e., charitable giving, helping a stranger).
    Full-text · Article · Jan 2016 · Emotion
    • "They discussed resilience as a form of 'mental immunity' similar to the 'general immunity' gained from a healthy lifestyle which can protect individuals from infection and disease. Although some authors argued that good mental health could be seen as a proxy for resilience, other authors commented that resilience wasn't necessarily correlated with the presence or absence of a mental health diagnosis (Bonanno 2004, Deshields et al. 2006, Kralik et al. 2006, Bonanno et al. 2007). "
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    ABSTRACT: Aim: To use systematic methods to examine how resilience is defined in empirical research. Background: Resilience is a term that is increasingly being used to describe and explain the complexities of individual and group responses to traumatic and challenging situations. It is now frequently mentioned in relation to many areas of nursing practice, including research. Given the increasing use of the term, it is timely to examine how resilience has been defined in empirical research. Design: An integrative review of the empirical literature (2000-2015). Data sources: Three health-related databases were searched: Medline, PsycINFO and the Cumulative Index for Nursing and Allied Health (CINAHL). Reference and citation tracking was performed on all articles included in the review. Review methods: The methods described by Whittemore and Knafl were used to guide this review. Two reviewers were involved in screening articles for inclusion and in the data extraction process. Data were synthesized using the constant comparative method of analysis. Results: One hundred articles were included in the final data analysis. The most significant finding of the review was that there is no universal definition of resilience. There were, however, some common themes identified: rising above, adaptation and adjustment, dynamic process, 'ordinary magic' and mental illness as a marker of resilience. Conclusion: Despite the increasing use of the term 'resilience', this review has identified that there is no universal definition of resilience adopted in the research literature. Further research is required to explore this construct in the context of nursing.
    No preview · Article · Jan 2016 · Journal of Advanced Nursing
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