Trials and Tribulations: How much Negativity do we need for a Positive Life?

Positive Psychology is not only about smiley-happy faces and rose-colored glasses. I´ve already written about Post-Traumatic Growth, and the Japanese art of Kintsukuroi as a metaphor for the state of flourishing after experiencing adversity. Yesterday, my fellow Mappster and “Queen of Sisu”, Emilia Lahti, shared a study on Facebook that sheds additional light on these issues. The question is:

Is a Life without Struggles and Hardships a desirable one?

The short answer is: probably not. In a study bearing the Nietzsche-inspired name Whatever Does Not Kill Us: Cumulative Lifetime Adversity, Vulnerability, and Resilience the researchers find that experiencing a moderate amount of “trials and tribulations” over one´s lifetime may foster resilience, resulting in advantages for mental health and well-being. Have a look at this table:

Lifetime AdversityWhat you see is data on a representative U.S. sample of more than 2.000 people. It shows the relationship between participant´s “Cumulative Lifetime Adversity” (CLA; people were asked for negative events in their life, e.g., serious illnesses, bereavement etc.) and several scores for mental health (Life Satisfaction) and its opposites (e.g., signs of Post-Traumatic Stress Syndrome). Precisely, you can see several U-shaped relationships, and one inverse-U-shaped one. The U-shaped ones depicts the relationship between CLA and signs for the absence of mental health, and the inverse shows the relationship between CLA and life satisfaction.

What it means: those people that display the highest levels of satisfaction and the lowest level of “symptoms” have experienced a moderate to average amount of adversity over their lifetime. High levels of adversity can really knock us down and leave us shattered. At the same time, having (almost) no prior experience with hardships can render us vulnerable to corresponding events in the future – and less satisfied with life in general.

So basically, Nietzsche was right. There is saying in Germany:

When you fall down: Stand up. Straighten your crown. Walk on.

 

 

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