One of the most powerful factors in the appropriate psycho-social development of individuals is the ability to experience and negotiate personal and global adversity.
This highly important aspect of human growth and development was the subject of a study conducted by Mark D. Seery of the University of Buffalo and E. Alison Holman and Roxane Cohen Silver of the University of California at Irvine, California.
The title of their study is compellingly titled:
“Whatever Does Not Kill Us: Cumulative Lifetime Adversity, Vulnerability, and Resilience”
A summary of their article states: Exposure to adverse life events typically predicts subsequent negative effects on mental health and well-being, such that more adversity predicts worse outcomes. However, adverse experiences may also foster subsequent resilience, with resulting advantages for mental health and well-being.
What is so highly impressive about this article is the subject matter of course and the fact that it has taken up a theme that has been the subject of theological discussion for centuries.
For instance in the 1st Century A.D. the brilliant intellect Paul of Tarsus wrote the following words to a group of individuals who were suffering adversity for their faith-confession: “that no none be moved by these afflictions.”
It is interesting that Paul did not seek to overthrow their collective experience of adversity by telling them that their experience was atypical. On the contrary he understood the importance of adversity and encouraged them to not be shaken by it.
The researchers in our study further noted: “In a multi-year longitudinal study of a national sample, people with a history of some lifetime adversity reported better mental health and well-being outcomes than not only people with a high history of adversity but also than people with no history of adversity. Specifically… a history of some but nonzero lifetime adversity predicted relatively lower global distress, lower self-rated functional impairment, fewer post-traumatic stress symptoms, and higher life satisfactory over time. Furthermore, people with some prior lifetime adversity were the least affected by recent adverse events.
In our next installment we will elaborate on why those with some prior lifetime adversity are least affected by recent adverse events.
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