A recent study claims that small amount of trauma helps people develop resilience.
Mark D. Seery and his colleagues from the University at Buffalo found that people who experienced many traumatic life events were more distressed in general, but they also found that people who had experienced no negative life events had similar problems.
AdvertisementThe people with the best outcomes were those who had experienced some negative events.
Seery said that a lot of solid psychology research has shown that having miserable life experiences is bad, and serious events like the death of a child or parent, a natural disaster, being physically attacked, experiencing sexual abuse, or being forcibly separated from the family, can cause psychological problems.
He also said that some research has suggested that the best way to go through life is having nothing ever happen to you. But not only is that unrealistic, it's not necessarily healthy.
"Of course, everybody's heard the aphorism, 'Whatever does not kill you makes you stronger'," Seery said.
Another study found that people with chronic back pain were able to get around better if they had experienced some serious adversity, whereas people with either a lot of adversity or none at all were more impaired.
One possibility for this pattern is that people who have been through difficult experiences have had a chance to develop their ability to cope.
"The idea is that negative life experiences can toughen people, making them better able to manage subsequent difficulties," he said.
In addition, people who get through bad events may have tested out their social network, learning how to get help when they need it.
"Negative events have negative effects. I really look at this as being a silver lining. Just because something bad has happened to someone doesn't mean they're doomed to be damaged from that point on," he added.
The study has been published in Current Directions in Psychological Science.