Newsletter – September 2015

Bouncing Forward – Transforming Bad Breaks into Breakthroughs

My book Bouncing Back was published in April 2013. Michaela Haas’s new book Bouncing Forward: Transforming Bad Breaks into Breakthroughs will be published October 6, 2015. Research in resilience and post-traumatic growth, both behavioral science and neuroscience, is rapidly expanding our understanding of how people can not only survive the most catastrophic of losses and the most unforgiving of tragedies, but actually recover a sense of themselves and a deeper meaning and purpose to their lives in the process.

Michaela draws the insights offered below in Reflections from her own experience suffering sudden, inexplicable health issues that temporarily de-railed her vibrant, successful career as a writer and reporter, and from her personal interviews with stellar role models of resilience, Maya Angelou and Temple Grandin among them, who share their own insights and strategies in the process of survival-healing-transformation-flourishing.

These real-life stories make clear – people do not always bounce, either back or forward. The process of coming to terms with new realities, drawing on resources deep within, and reaching out to others can take time. The process certainly takes awareness, intention, commitment, perseverance, and the support of people who trust healing and recovery are possible.

The everyday definition of resilience entails a sense of bouncing back from a severe crisis, but for me, the idea that we can “bounce back” from a devastating blow and return to our original shape falls short. We never forget the ones we’ve lost or the arduous struggle we’ve fought. The lives we lead are markedly different before and after a trauma, because these losses and struggles profoundly change us.” – Michaela Haas, introduction to Bouncing Forward

I heartily encourage you to grab this book off the shelf and discover its lessons for yourself. May the wisdom offered be useful to you and yours.

REFLECTIONS

Michaela presents her insights into post-traumatic growth – she’s done her homework interviewing cutting-edge PTG researchers as well – in the context of the lived experience of the people she interviewed. These insights are not simply a check-list to be followed step-by-step like a protocol. These are practices that people have found effective in dealing with life events that upheaval our foundational sense of who we are and how the world works. A few highlights of Michaela’s clear and accessible writing:

Accept What Is

The ability to accept situations that cannot be changed is crucial for adapting to traumatic life events. Post-traumatic growth researchers call it “acceptance coping” and have determined that coming to terms with reality is a significant predictor of post-traumatic growth,

God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.
– Reinhold Niebuhr

The surefire way to build resilience is to go through trauma. If you go through trauma, it doesn’t mean that you’re doomed to PTSD; it also doesn’t mean that you’ll just sail through because you’re a strong guy and nothing can beat you. The most realistic alternative is: the trauma will affect you. Maybe let it change you in ways that you value.
– Richard Tedeschi

Allow Yourself to Struggle

When I look back now, I can see how I could have coped with each of the events individually, if life had been kind enough to space them out over several years. But losing all sources of support a once (my health, my partner, my community, my grandmother, my pet, a sane work environment), the onslaught was so overwhelming that I lost sight of the shore. I only had myself to lean on, and I was not holding up. Sometimes you just have to let go of everything.

Self-control is important, but struggle is inevitable….Scratch beyond the surface of any hero’s life story and you’ll find he or she had to overcome a great deal of challenges, and sometimes they thought they weren’t up to the task. It can be liberating and validating to discover this.

A devastating loss is simply this: devastating. Post-traumatic growth does not dissolve the pain. Allow the tears to flow, scream at the funeral if you must, go into the woods and curse the sky, take up boxing and beat the crap out of the punching bag. Repeat as needed.

It’s from the fierce place of acknowledging the raw spots that we derive strength.

The Buddhist teachings are fabulous at simply working with what’s happening as your path of awakening, rather than treating your life experiences as some kind of deviation from what is supposed to be happening. The more difficulties you have, in fact, the greater opportunity there is to let them transform you. The difficult things provoke all your irritations and bring your habitual patterns to the surface. And that becomes the moment of truth. You have the choice to launch into the lousy habitual patterns you already have, or to stay with the rawness and discomfort of the situation and let it transform you, on the spot.
– Pema Chodron

Take breaks from pain

It is absolutely necessary to take a temporary leave of absence from pain. Not once, but regularly.

You can’t stay in the misery of this all the time. In order to cope with these things, people need to have the capability to take a dose of it, then go away from it. Some degree of comforting yourself or distracting yourself is useful. I’d call this good coping. It’s smart. You have those times where you say, enough is enough, you have to stop the bleeding, and then you come back to it another time. – interview with Richard Tedeschi, co-author of Posttraumatic Growth in Clinical Practice, 2012.

Let the pain crack you open

It is all too easy to let a shock harden us, close us down, make us more anxious and uptight. Yet, we could use it the opposite way – to let it crack us open. Are they aspects of yourself that you have suppressed or not paid enough attention to? Are you honoring your soul? Is this crisis an opportunity to do something you have always wanted to do but never found the space? Trust your intuition. Spend more time in your heart. Find something, anything, that brings you joy and that connects your with your creative energy.

When misfortune fills the world and its inhabitants,make adversity the path of awakening.
– Tibetan teaching

Ring the bells that still can ring.
Forget your perfect offering.
There’s a crack in everything;
That’s how the light gets in.
– Leonard Cohen

Stay flexible

Flexibility can hardly be overrated as a crucial asset when we face difficulties. It means to be tough and unyielding at times or soft and adaptive at others. To express our emotions honestly when surrounded by people who can hear us, or to stay quiet and just listen. It means to keep searching for options, but to settle when decisions need to be made. Diverse dilemmas demand diverse strategies.

Flexibility is adaptive because different kinds of adversity create different kinds of demands. The better able we are to adapt ourselves to those demands, the more likely we are to survive. An intriguing implication of this idea is that in some circumstances, it is adaptive to think or behave in ways that we would normally think of as inappropriate or even unhealthy.
– George Bonanno, The Other Side of Sadness, 2009.

Identify unhelpful patterns

Most people believe that an event triggers a response. Being taken prisoner triggers helplessness, being attached triggers fear or aggression, being praised triggers happiness. But if you think about it, it’s not the event itself that triggers our response, it’s our mind. It’s what we make of it.

Between a stimulus and response is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom. The last of human freedoms is to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances.
– Viktor Frankl, Man’s Search for Meaning

How you respond to the issue…is the issue.
– Frankie Perez

Catastrophizing is not the same as planning for contingencies. Catastrophizing wastes critical energy ruminating about the irrational worst-case outcomes and prevents people from taking purposeful action.
– Karen Reivich, the Resilience Factor: 7 Keys to Finding Your Inner Strength and Overcoming Life’s Hurdles, 2002.

Forgive Yourself

Resilient individuals tend to view mistakes as experiences for learning and growth. Accepting responsibility is a crucial step in recovery, but blaming themselves again and again is not.
-Robert Brooks and Sam Goldstein, The Power of Resilience: Achieving Balance, Confidence, and Personal Strength in Your Life. 2004.

Forgive yourself and move on.

Take Control

A traumatic experience hijacks our ability to control. Facing a sudden disaster or an unexpected diagnosis, we lose power over what we thought was ours: maybe our body, our freedom, or our dignity. Precisely because trauma often leaves us helpless, the antidote is taking back control.

The guiding principle of recovery is to restore power and control to the survivor.
– Judith Hermann, Trauma and Recovery, 1997.

How someone responds to trauma is a fork in the road. You have to act in life, to get to things, to adapt.
– Ann Masten, Ordinary Magic: Resilience in Development, 2014

Invite positivity

Invite positivity into your life in whatever form it takes for you. Visit a friend, tend to your garden, take up running! After a grueling divorce from an addict, one of my friends learned deep-sea diving in her mid-fifties. It was something she had always wanted to do but never got around to while raising her kids. She now credits it with saving her life.

Reflect on the benefit

Is there a gift hidden in the mistake or the pain? Is there a silver lining in the suffering? Is there anything you learned, even if it might be a difficult lesson? These questions might be too provocative when the wounds are fresh. Being able to reflect on them honestly is a sign that we are well on our way to becoming trauma alumni.

The hero’s emergence through trial and resurrection is among the oldest stories in history. “It is by going down into the abyss that we recover the treasures of life. Where you stumble, there lies your treasure.
– Joseph Campbell

Out of suffering have emerged the strongest souls; the most massive characters are seared with scars.
– Kahlil Gibran

Smooth seas do not make skillful sailors.
– African proverb

What stands in the way becomes the way.
– Marcus Aurelius, roman emperor

Value the process, not the outcome

The growth does not come from the event itself as if the event itself were a great thing. It’s not the death of a beloved child, but the parent’s long and arduous and permanently painful struggle to cope that might produce some elements of growth. Even people who have lost their children can say, ‘I hate that I lost my child, but I like the person I have become in the aftermath a lot better than who I was before.’ Many bereaved parents go on to be active in non-profit work or help others in altruistic ways. It’s what happens afterward how people strive to understand and rethink what’s going on. And it is a struggle. If it’s not a struggle, nothing is really being learned.
– Richard Tedeschi, Posttraumatic Growth in Clinical Practice

The healing process is important in itself, not as a goal. If you go through a healing process expecting to heal, not only do you have no guarantee that your wish will come true, but you might miss the most important parts. Whether you live or whether you die, going through a healing process is extremely helpful. If you are going to die, it is probably even more helpful, because it prepares you for life and death.
– Alain Beauregard, cancer survivor, interviewee of Bouncing Forward

Hope, faith, love, and a strong will to live offer no promise of immortality, only proof of our uniqueness as human beings and the opportunity to experience full growth even under the grimmest circumstances. Far more real than the ticking clock is the way we open to the minutes and invest them with meaning. Death is not the ultimate tragedy in life. The ultimate tragedy is to die without discovering the possibility of full growth. The approach of death need not be denial of that growth.
– Norman Cousins, Head First: The Biology of Hope and the Healing Power of the Human Spirit. 1989

Integrate the event into your life’s narrative

Eventually a survivor will need to weave the traumatic events into the narrative of their life; they will rewrite their life’s script. That process can take years, or even decades. But at some point in our life, we need to acknowledge that want happened has become part of our story.

In order to move toward a growth perspective, you have to go through a phase of intense reflections. People have to figure out, ‘Where does this traumatic event belong in my life story? Is this something that’s central. Is it just a minor detour? Does it change my perspective and choice about how I am going through the rest of my life?
– interview with Richard Tedeschi, co-author of Posttraumatic Growth in Clinical Practice, 2012

Resilience is a group effort

Resilience is a team effort. We learn resilience not in isolation, but only from other people, by interacting, connecting, and observing. Bouncing forward after a crisis depends not only on our own resources but also at least as much on our connection to the people that surround us and how well we are able to gather support.

It is not intuitively obvious to most people that going toward the pain is healing of it. I don’t think that the work of healing and post-traumatic growth can begin until trauma is named and shared with another person. The overwhelming response is relief and a deeply held wish that they had spoken together sooner.
– Dr. Susan Ollar, Colorado psychotherapist

Throughout out life, our close relationships with caregivers, friends, romantic partners, and others build and sustain our resilience, The central significance of close relationships for resilience has been noted in virtually every review on resilience in development over the past half-century. I cannot think of one person who did it by themselves. A lot of what makes the difference for people is the support they are receiving.
– Ann Masten, Ordinary Magic: Resilience in Development, 2014

There’s more, much more. Michaela is a gifted writer and wise soul. Many important lessons to be had and savored.

POETRY AND QUOTES TO INSPIRE

Experience is not what happens to you; it’s what you do with what happens to you.
– Aldous Huxley

* * * * *

It might be more accurate to recognize this “disorder” [Post Traumatic Stress Disorder] as actually just an expression of our humanity. When someone crashes their car against a wall at sixty miles per hour, they’ll have many broken bones. Do we say they have a broken bone disorder? They have an injury. Same with trauma survivors; they have been injured. Psychologically injured, maybe morally injured. They aren’t disordered; they’re hurt by what has happened. That makes more sense to me.
– Richard Tedeschi

* * * * *

An abnormal reaction to an abnormal situation is normal behavior.
– Viktor Frankl

* * * * *

We define trauma not so much by the event itself but by the emotional and psychological effect an event has on people. We look especially at any event that challenge people’s core belief system: people start to question how the world works, what kind of person they are, what kind of life they are living, and what future they have. So it’s not necessarily something that wounds people physically, or where death is an issue. Certainly all these things can be traumatic, but we’re looking at the effect on the individual in terms of what happens to their thinking processes and their beliefs.
– Richard Tedeschi

* * * * *

What is revealed here is the dual nature of trauma: first, its destructive ability to rob victims of their capacity to live and enjoy life. The paradox of trauma is that it has both the power to destroy and the power to transform and resurrect. Whether trauma will be a cruel and punishing Gorgon, or a vehicle for soaring to the heights of transformation and mastery, depends on how we approach it. Trauma is a fact of life. It does not however, have to be a life sentence. It is possible to learn from mythology, from clinical observations, from neuroscience, from embracing the ‘living’ experiential body, and from the behavior of animals, and then, rather than brace against our instincts, embrace them.
– Peter Levine, In an Unspoken Voice: How the Body Releases Trauma and Restores Goodness

* * * * *

Early on, in the immediate aftermaths of these traumas, the people who show the most growth may be the people who have the most room to grow. Post-traumatic growth involves big change, especially the kind of spiritual and existential growth that arises after a seismic shake-up.
– Michaela Haas

* * * * *

The people who show this growth usually have their eyes wide open, open enough to see the difficulties along with the possibilities. They are not the people who close their eyes and say, ‘I don’t want to look at any of this.’ “The key to this is creating an atmosphere where people feel safe enough to consider different points of view. Trauma as a teaching. A therapist willing to listen. A survivor willing to explore. These could be the ingredients to growth.
– Richard Tedeschi

* * * * *

For some people, a divorce is a relief. For some, cancer is a challenge they accept to take on. For some soldiers, combat is one of the most exciting missions of their lives. However, for others, any of this could drive them over the edge. There is no universal scale for judging another’s pain.
– Michaela Haas

* * * * *

Post-traumatic stress is a catalyst for the emotional growth. The worse has happened, and we are changed. Let’s face it. Few of us live our best and kindest lives. Most of us hurtle along, propelled by bills and responsibilities, somewhat impervious to our true potential. A breakdown also breaks down the musts and should-haves that ruled our daily routines, along with life as we knew it. Temporarily suspended in a vacuum, we can recalibrate, and maybe for the first time, tune into what truly matters.
– Michaela Haas

* * * * *

The resilience factor is similar to our physical disposition: Thirty percent is genetic, ten percent is medical care, and sixty percent are the behavior choices you make. [Thus according to Rhonda’s math, our ability to boost our inner strength through our own actions outweighs the genetics or medical care that we may have little to no control over.- MH] So we should focus on the behavioral choices. You go where you aim.
– Rhonda Cornum, interviewee for Bouncing Forward

* * * * *

All resilience studies confirm: that the route to recovery lies neither in denial nor indulgence, but in the middle way of honest self-reflection, coupled with an inborn optimism and the determination not to give up.
– Michaela Haas

* * * * *

In Buddhism, to “deal with it” means something specific: it means to go toward the places we are afraid of, to embrace the pain and be present with it. This is the middle way the Buddha eventually discovered: neither to suppress nor to indulge, neither to shun nor to fight….While we could not expect to master illness and suffering, we could learn to master the mind that experiences them. “mind is the creator of happiness and suffering,” he conclude. Liberation from suffering, a promise of the Buddhist path, is primarily a matter of the mind – an internal revolution and shift of perspective. There is no way out, but there is a way in.
– Michaela Haas

* * * * *

When you learn how to suffer, you suffer much less.
– Zen master Thich Nhat Hanh

* * * * *

This is exactly what trauma therapists recommend. Plunging head-on intro confronting the trauma experience is likely too overwhelming, but eventually we have to acknowledge and meet it. “In order to experience this restorative faculty, we must develop the capacity to face certain uncomfortable and frightening physical sensations and feelings without becoming overwhelmed by them, advises Peter Levine

We need first, to get rid of the attitude of being entirely unwilling to face any suffering ourselves and, second, to cultivate the attitude of actually being joyful when suffering arises. Think about all the depression, anxiety and irritation we put ourselves through by always seeing suffering as unfavorable, something to be avoided at all costs. Now, think about two things; how useless this is, and how much trouble it causes. Go on reflecting on this repeatedly, until you are absolutely convinced.
– Dodrupchen Jigme Tenpa Nyima, Turning Happiness and Suffering in to Enlightenment.

* * * * *

Suffering readjusts our priorities, eradicates arrogance, encourages us to reach for a purpose larger than ourselves, nudges us to help others who are worse off, and helps us find joy in positive action.
– Michaela Haas

* * * * *

In his popular book David and Goliath, journalist Malcom Gladwell points out that an unusually large number of successful innovators, prime minister, and US presidents had lost a parent in childhood. “Too often, we make the mistake…and jump to the conclusion that there is only one kind of response to something terrible and traumatic. There isn’t.”

The Tibetans strive to find meaning in their hardship. The philosophy of post-traumatic growth, the conviction that suffering can carry great opportunity, has been hardwired into their beliefs for thousands of years. Tibetans speak about the “vast mind” that is infinite enough to even meet atrocities. Their life perspective was so spacious and flexible they were able to accept the Buddha’s discoveries, that suffering is part of human existence, and that liberation from suffering lies in the mind. Even while they were in the midst of agony, they recognized the hardship as fleeting, ephemeral, and ultimately not affecting their true nature. In this space, healing arises.
– Michaela Haas

* * * * *

Resilient mindset: Feeling in control of one’s life, knowing how to fortify one’s ‘stress hardiness’, being empathetic, displaying effective communication and other interpersonal capabilities, possessing solid problem-solving and decision-making skills, establishing realistic goals and expectations, learning from both success and failure, being a compassionate and contributing member of society, living a responsible life based on aa set of thoughtful values, feeling special (not self-centered) while helping others to feel the same. Possessing a resilient mindset does not imply that one if free from stress, pressure, and conflict, but rather than one can successfully cope with problems as they arise. We also use the word mindset to capture an important premise of this book: mindsets can be changed.
– Robert Brooks and Sam Goldstein, The Power of Resilience

* * * * *

A resilient mindset not only fortifies us in challenging times, but the same qualities and skills help us in our everyday lives as well. In fact, ideally we cultivate resilience while the proverbial waters are smooth so that we have a buffer and good sailing skills when the going gets rough.
– Michaela Haas

* * * * *

Our best protector from trauma is also our best ally on our road to recovery: the ability to connect. This, then is the task at hand: to reestablish trust in ourselves, in the workings of the world, in others. One of the best things we can do for ourselves is to “hang out with healthy brains.” Bouncing forward after a crisis depends not only on our own resources but also at least as much on our connection to the people that surround us and how well we are able to gather support. What’s important is not the number of friends, but the quality of the support. Support can come from friends, family, support groups, our church, or professionals. The best kind of support encourages us to focus on our strength, to take our life into our own hands, and helps to bring out the best in us.
– Michaela Haas

* * * * *

Ann Masten vetoes the notion that resilience is rare and reserved for exceptional children with extraordinary talents such as Maya Angelou. “Resilience is common and grounded in ordinary relationships and resources” is the uplifting upshot of Masten’s decades of research. That’s why she calls our innate capacity to bounce forward “ordinary magic.”
– Michaela Haas

STORIES TO LEARN FROM

Michaela interviewed stellar role models of resilience for Bouncing Forward:

Rick Allen, amputee, drummer for rock band Def Leppard

Maya Angelou, world-renowned author and civil rights activist (Michaela nominates her for the Nobel Prize in post-traumatic growth)

Alain Beauregard, survivor of terminal cancer

Jesse Billauer, paraplegic, professional surfer, co-founder Life Rolls On for adaptive surfers

Rhonda Cornum, physician and U.S. Army brigadier general, taken prisoner in the First Iraq War, developer of the army’s Comprehensive Soldier Fitness curriculum, which is now standard pre-deployment resilience training for U.S. soldiers

Roshi Bernie Glassman, organizer of reconciliation retreats at Auschwitz and retreats among the homeless in New York City

Temple Grandin, renowned autistic animal behaviorist

Cindi Lamb, co-founder of Mothers Against Drunk Drivers

Coco Shuman, legendary jazz musician, survivor of Auschwitz

Meggie Zahneis, HSAN patient (Hereditary Sensory and Autonomic Neuropathy) whose body cannot register pain; for her courage and resilience, honored as the Cincinnati Reds baseball team’s most valuable player.

When doctors and psychiatrists research loss, grief or trauma, by default they often pay more attention to the patients who suffer the most. However, the majority of trauma survivors eventually attest to a renewed zest for life, major empathetic growth, and increased emotional maturity not despite, but because of their painful experiences and sometimes simultaneously with post-traumatic stress. We are so vulnerable, yet tenacious at the same time.

Researching these life stories has a goal: to find out what protects us and those around us from unnecessary suffering, to discover strategies to intervene when life’s trajectory goes ballistic, and to help the healing. And not only to heal but also to use the crisis as a launching pad for a new beginning.
– Michaela Haas

It’s inspiring to read these people’s stories, laced with wisdom and insight.

I’ll include here a brief story, from Michaela’s sister-in-law Tami:

When my sister–in-law Tami lost her child, her despair was so all encompassing that her family was greatly worried she would choose to join her daughter “on the other side.” Tami and her husband Brett have always been compassionate people, but rather than becoming absorbed in the overwhelming pain of their loss, for them the loss brought to the forefront the suffering we all have in common. When such a tragedy strikes, it is easy to become isolated in a cocoon of despair. Almost everybody who suffers really feels they are alone in the world and that nobody else can understand the depth of their despondency. From the moment their daughter fell ill, Tami and Brett made a point of visiting the bedside of other toddlers in the hospital who never received visitors. Living through the stress of seeing their daughter through six heart surgeries made it all the more important to them to support others in distress.

Eventually Tami found a purpose in volunteering for Compassionate Friends, a self-help group for bereaved parents. For Tami, it was a safe place to cry and vent. This might be too much to bear for some: Brett found it hard to continuously overhear the phone calls of other bereaved parents – it was like death arriving at their house several times a week all over again.

There is no right way to grieve, no judgment in each path chosen. Each one of us needs to find our own way into healing after loss.

This is how you get unstuck. You reach. Not so you can walk away from the daughter you loved, but so you can live the life that is yours – the one that includes the sad loss of your daughter, but is not arrested by it. The one that eventually leads you to a place in which you not only grieve her, but also feel lucky to have had the privilege of loving her.
– Cheryl Strayed, Tiny Beautiful Things.

EXERCISES TO PRACTICE

When someone is drowning, they need a lifeline, not a swimming lesson. There are traumatic events where the mere suggestion that growth and result from it may seem naïve or insulting. Often, time needs to pass before a survivor is open to the idea. If you use this book as a brick to hit someone’s head with so that they grow already, I’m gonna come after you. But as some point, the survivor might feel the urge to learn to swim through the grief, and then these strategies become very helpful.
– Michaela Haas

Michaela offers five exercises “scientifically proven to fortify us for challenges, help us through hardship, and support our recovery:” Meditate, Appreciate, Love, Love Others, and Connect. Here is an abridged version of the exercise to connect, based on Brooks and Goldstein, The Power of Resilience:

Often illness, trauma, or loss prompts us to withdraw. We need time alone, and that can be healthy. Yet to connect with others is also an integral part of the healing process. Ideally, we connect with people with whom we can establish mutual trust and understanding. It can be necessary to distance ourselves from people who are depleting our energy or who burden us with unhelpful advice. Yet it is essential that we find at least one or two people with whom we can truly connect. People who have proven to be extremely resilient also happen to be unusually creative in connecting with others.

What to do:

Ask yourself:

Who are the people in my life I feel truly connected to?

Who are the people who would refer to me as someone they feel truly connected to?

How would I describe the quality of the connection I have with others?

Can the quality of the connection be improved, and if yes, now?

How would my life friends, relatives and colleagues to describe me?

Am I interacting with them in ways that would lead them to describe me this way?

If not, what must change?

Sometimes we are surrounded by people and still feel disconnected. Then just listen. Listen fully, with your ears as well as your heart. Every single person on this planet wants to be hard and acknowledged.

Pick up the phone and make a call to a person or a group you would like to connect with. Follow up, and repeat as needed.

Why It Works

Social support is one of the greatest buffers before, during, and after a crisis. Even just holding the hand of a beloved partner lessens anxiety and pain. People with social support live significantly longer (50%!), feel less pain, and are more likely to experience post-traumatic growth. It literally hurts to be left out. Lack of social connection is a greater detriment to health than obesity, smoking and high blood pressure, and social isolation is now considered a major health risk.

When Harvard psychiatrist George E. Vaillant examined the lives of 236 successful Harvard sophomores in the famous Grant Study that followed them for seventy-five years, he came to a striking conclusion of what made for a fulfilled and happy life: It wasn’t their IQ or family’s socioeconomic status, nor the sociability and extraversion that was so highly valued in the initial process of selecting them for the study; even alcoholism and depression “proved irrelevant” for their later flourishing. What made all the difference for both their economic success and their mental and physical health was their empathic capacity and “success in relationships”: their ability to love, forgive and be grateful. In short, it was a history of warm, intimate relationships – and the ability to foster them in maturity – that predicted flourishing in all aspects of these men’s lives.

Martin Seligman sums up the vast body of research that evidences the positive power of kindness. “We scientist have found that doing a kindness produces the single most reliable momentary increase in well-being of any exercise we have tested.:

Be kind whenever possible. It is always possible.”
– HH the Dalai Lama

RESOURCES

Bouncing Forward: Transforming Bad Breaks into Breakthroughs by Michaela Haas, PhD. New York: Enliven Books, 2015

The bibliography in Bouncing Forward is extensive. Not yet published when Michaela wrote Bouncing Forward:

Upside: The New Science of Post-traumatic Growth by Jim Rendon. New York: Touchstone, 2015