Monthly Article Archives: February 2004

Resilience: A Common or Not-So-Common Phenomenon?Robert Brooks, Ph.D.

In my last article I discussed the emergence of “positive psychology” as an area of research and practice that focuses on human strengths and virtues rather than on weaknesses and pathology. This past week I read a thought-provoking article by Dr. George Bonanno of Columbia University Teachers College that appeared in the January, 2004 issue of the journal American Psychologist. The article, titled “Loss, Trauma, and Human Resilience: Have We Underestimated the Human Capacity to Thrive After Extremely Aversive Events?” raises important questions about commonly held views of pathology and resilience. It also supports a basic tenet of positive psychology, namely, that the potential for individuals to handle adversity may be far greater than has previously been recognized. At this beginning of his article, Bonanno makes an important distinction between the concepts of resilience and recovery. He notes that recovery is best understood as a process in which “normal functioning temporarily gives way to threshold or subthreshold psychopathology (e.g., symptoms of depression or posttraumatic stress disorder–PTSD), usually for a period of at least several months, and then gradually returns to pre-event levels. By contrast, resilience reflects the ability to maintain a stable equilibrium. . . . Resilience to loss and

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