Overcoming trauma, building resilience

Traumatic experiences can serve to make people tougher, new research has suggested. Published in Current Directions in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science, the study revealed that while events such as being assaulted and suffering bereavement may be damaging from a psychological perspective, they can also enable people to develop resilience.

Mark Seery and colleagues at the University at Buffalo suggested it is not necessarily healthy for individuals to go through life and have nothing bad ever happen to them.

According to the investigation, adults with the best outcomes are those who have experienced some negative life events - but not too many.

Mr Seery noted: "I really look at this as being a silver lining. Just because something bad has happened to someone doesn't mean they're doomed to be damaged from that point on."

He added traumatic events have the ability to make people better able to deal with other difficulties in the future.

Dr Tom Fawcett, Chartered Psychologist, commented: "It is with certainty that we all suffer life trauma's which are unpredictable and people at all ages respond differently to such adversity.

"There is no guarantee that adversity will make a person more resilient and it is down to many factors as to how people will respond and cope with extreme difficulty. There is so much variation as how individuals respond and it is down to one's personality make up, their coping appraisal, coping responses and also down to their previous experience.

"To say it is not healthy to go through life without adversity is the same as saying it is unhealthy to go through life without being hurt, upset or injured. It is a 100 per cent guarantee that we will all have to face difficult times and the way which we respond and benefit from adversity is interesting.

"Life is about overcoming hurdles and difficulty and we are continually tested. Some people by setting unrealistic goals invite the possibility of more failure or disappointment whilst others sit safely and take less risk, but risk taking without careful consideration is most definitely healthy.

"It is rather risky to state that experiencing trauma allows people to cope and deal with future experiences in a positive way is too one-sided. Some people do not benefit and continue to be traumatised which is unfortunate. I feel the people who benefit from trauma is significantly less than those who continue to suffer but the ones that survive most definitely become more resilient over time. It is the time that it takes to get stronger which is the issue. It is too much of an unknown commodity and not easily predictable.

"It's not that having a life trauma is the important thing here - it is the severity of the trauma and the effectiveness of the coping appraisal and response over time that is the important thing. It's not about the frequency but the impact severity and the importance of continuing on in life to the person that is the issue. If you need a concise quotation let me know tomorrow."