I have been away from my blog too long. First there were the holidays, which always eclipse everything else. Then I traveled out west to visit my mother and help out in those small ways that make things run smoother — getting ready for the conversion to digital TV, fixing the email connection, cleaning out a cupboard or two. Then I had the dual pleasure of visiting good friends in San Diego and having a press pass at the conference at Claremont Graduate University called Applying the Science of Positive Psychology to Improve Society. Have no small goals! My summaries are posted on January 30 and 31 of Positive Psychology News Daily.
Now that I’m back at my own desk looking out my own window at the bare trees in the woods, I’ve been thinking about resilience again. I got a call from a reporter who was exploring the question, Why aren’t people unhappier in this time of economic trouble? I did a little looking around, first finding an online resource, The Road to Resilience, published by the American Psychological Association and Discovery Channel in the wake of September 11.
Ann Masten wrote a paper about resilience being “ordinary magic” — when people’s adaptive abilities are in good working order, they can withstand hardship. At the Claremont conference, Chris Peterson and Nansook Park talked about hardship causing character strengths to be developed or discovered. And even though it was a long time ago, we haven’t totally lost our collective memory of coming out the other end of the Great Depression. From people who were children then, we can still learn about gratitude for the blessings of the intervening years.
I’ve written about ways to build resilience — a PPND article called Resilience in the Face of Adversity and a short paper about how to prepare for and deal with the emotional impact of layoffs — available from my resources page.
Perhaps status stress — keeping up with the Joneses — goes down because we all feel at risk. It is a shared adversity.
I also think we are fortunate to have leadership that is eloquently optimistic and that calls on us to participate in the recovery. My mother keeps feeling sorry for President Obama because of the difficulty of his job. But I think, that’s why he was elected, that’s probably even why he ran. Difficult times make openings for greatness. That was certainly the case with Abraham Lincoln who had even bigger problems to address.
I’d love to hear your ideas.