Resilience and Stress

With the happy discovery of clinical psychology, we have all benefited from advancements made in better understanding and addressing post-traumatic stress. As with most things in life we usually think in terms of how to avoid a negative and not as to how to achieve a positive. This week in the Harvard Business Review, Martin Seligman, the director of the Positive Psychology Center at the University of Pennsylvania, discusses his findings in Post-traumatic resilience—the efforts to constructively manage one’s perspective after experiencing a nervous or other breakdown. Currently being implemented by the US Army as a means of buttressing the serving young men and women’s mental health and fortitude, Seligman’s inquiries are a suggested study for business owners and entrepreneurs who face, endure, and are devastated by, tumultuous and trying circumstances regularly, though they should not be compared to combat out of respect.

Seligman’s big idea holds that when most people encounter some serious adversity—be it a lay-off, divorce, a failed class, yet another quarterly negative—their aptitude for imagining a positive outcome is severely limited if not completely absent. One becomes convinced that the prior goals one held are untenable, normalizing one’s expectations and adopting a survivalist mode of stasis. The depression takes a form of paralysis, inhibiting the individual from taking the opportunities that become available; often these states are only exacerbated by the diagnosis and prognosis of PTSD which allows the affected victim to think that their condition has become irreversible and is only fated to continue on a decline. However, with an awareness of the symptoms of PTSD one can quite easily take steps toward improving one’s situation, recognizing the debilitating effects of PTSD on one’s own thinking and countering them by actively choosing a path for one’s life. Interpretive ingenuity also factors significantly into Seligman’s PT resilience. If one has the ability to imagine oneself transcending the confronting existential crisis, the act of doing so will become easier.

Although I do not dispute Mr. Seligman’s methods, I felt that the interview did not necessarily leave me all that much wiser in a practical sense. A lot of the positive thinking models seem to borrow from each other without having any fundamental bone structure to them, though Dr. Seligman’s point about retaining a cognizance of PTSD’s symptoms while suffering through it remains convincing, although maybe not the most novel idea either; every mother learns to tell their child that their sadness will go away.

A test has been made available for the workplace to attempt to quantify one’s own or one’s workers resilience, in attempts to better understand how one approaches adversity and whether or not those are positive models (

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