Resilience: its Psychology and Neurobiology


Acta Psychiatrica Scandinavica reviews the literature on psychological and biological findings on resilience, finding that secure attachment, the experience of positive emotions and having a purpose in life are three building blocks.

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Rutten, P., Hammels, C., Geschwind, N., et al; Resilience in mental health: linking psychological and neurobiological perspectives. Acta Psychiatrica Scandinavica, online March 14, 2013

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Kermit Cole
Kermit Cole, MFT, founding editor of Mad in America, works in Santa Fe, New Mexico as a couples and family therapist. Inspired by Open Dialogue, he works as part of a team and consults with couples and families that have members identified as patients. His work in residential treatment — largely with severely traumatized and/or "psychotic" clients — led to an appreciation of the power and beauty of systemic philosophy and practice, as the alternative to the prevailing focus on individual pathology. A former film-maker, he has undergraduate and master's degrees in psychology from Harvard University, as well as an MFT degree from the Council for Relationships in Philadelphia. He is a doctoral candidate with the Taos Institute and the Free University of Brussels. You can reach him at [email protected].


  1. Although these findings are good (did we really need a study to tell us?)I think studies like this do more harm than good in that they perpetuate the use of the concept of “resilience”.

    I don’t think resilience is a useful concept, certainly not as it is applied to human psychology. It makes people get stuck into thinking in terms of “lack of resilience”, and of “predispositions” to mental disorders; in terms of “deficits”, which I is neither correct nor useful.

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    • Great quote (Szasz’s – I should read him; I confess I haven’t); I think I know what he means. To me it is clear that psychosis can be interpreted as a defence mechanism: what a healthy organism does to defend itself from harmful stimuli. Psychosis is what the brain does to endure the unendurable.

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      • Good point about psychosis as a coping mechanism or an escape during stressful situations. All my family have experienced psychoses, the reasons for it made sense, otherwise we might have developed something else eg cancer or other body conditions. Some of us enjoyed the psychotic experience, it was an adventure and a transition into a better place. The traumatic psychiatric treatment was the worst bit about it, to my mind.

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