Dr. Maren Westphal, Assistant Professor of Psychology at Arcadia University, was quoted in a Huffington Post’s Healthy Living section on April 11 on “Happier People Deal Better With Hardships.”
Maren Westphal worked on research that helped form the basis for Bonnano’s conclusions about resilience and flexibility. She now is an assistant professor of psychology at Arcadia University. “There is one big message coming out” of the research, she says, “and it’s that resilience is not about one factor or one dominant personal trait, but that many different variables contribute to resilience. The other piece about resilience is that it is a process, an outcome that unfolds over time.”
While it is hard to predict which people will deal well with adversity, some variables have emerged, Westphal says. One negative factor is excessively dwelling on a problem or loss. “People who ruminate more do worse,” she says. “They keep on thinking and processing about adverse things that happen to them.” Women generally ruminate more on events than men.
Another negative factor is a person’s degree of neuroticism. Viewing events negatively all the time makes it harder to respond to a serious adversity in a healthy, flexible manner.
On the positive side, Westphal says, people with a high sense of their own skills and self-worth tend to fare well. Whether or not you really are capable doesn’t matter so much as that you think you are capable, she says. Having this sense of “feeling up to it” is very healthful. So is self-enhancement—inflating your own worth to deal with adversity. “People who perceive themselves in more flattering ways show better adjustments,” Westphal says, even if their attitude turns off people in their social network.