What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, right?
Although most of us have probably heard this euphemism before, a recent study looked at traumatic life experiences to see how true this saying really was.
Published in the Current Directions in Psychological Science, Mark D. Seery, PhD and his colleagues from the University of Buffalo, delved into the impact trauma has on individuals and whether or not it actually makes them psychologically stronger and more resilient.
Traumatic events like major natural disasters, sexual abuse, or the death of a loved one obviously incur psychological damage, so where does that saying come from?
It turns out that not enough adversity can be just as harmful as too much.
Dr. Seery and his colleagues found that people who experienced multiple traumatic events in their lives had high levels of global distress, functional impairment, and PTS (post-traumatic stress) symptoms.
But they also found that people who experience little to no traumatic life events had similar levels of distress, functional impairment, and PTS symptoms.
Their results identify a “sweet spot” in life, where you need to have had some hardships, but not too many, to have the highest life satisfaction and the lowest distress.
It’s important to experience some adversity in order to learn how to cope with the ups and downs of life.
If we want our patients to achieve this balance, we need to learn how to increase resilience. Even if someone has already experienced more trauma than they can handle, there is still a chance to build resilience and come back to a more balanced state.
As Dr. Seery puts it in the article, “Bad things are still bad things. This work does, however, suggest that experiencing adversity may have an upside—a silver lining—in that it may help foster resilience.”
You can find the entire article here.
To learn more about building resilience and healing trauma, check out our newest webinar series on the Treatment of Trauma. You’ll learn about the latest treatments and how you can utilize these methods in your practice.
Does your experience show patients growing stronger as a result of adverse life experience?