What are the qualities that separate those who have the ability to withstand the worst and yet are seemingly still able to thrive, from those who catastrophize and view themselves as hapless and helpless victims?
People who are good copers are often referred to as stress-hardy. Psychologist Suzanne Kobasa has identified three attitudes that sustain such individuals during demanding times. These attitudes are called the three C`s: challenge, commitment, and control. A stress-hardy person sees change and crisis as a challenge rather than a threat. Even when they cannot control the outer situation, they realize that they always have control over their response to the things that are happening. There is a wise saying that relates to this phenomenon: “Suffering is inevitable, but misery is optional.”
I’ll speak to some of the “Thriver” qualities, which have been excerpted from The Beethoven Factor: The New Positive Psychology of Hardiness, Healing, and Hope by Paul Pearsall, Hampton Roads Publishing 2003.
Thrivers are beings who can creatively construe situations that allow themselves to develop an increasingly more encompassing and adaptive explanatory style.
They tend to have very strong immune systems and even at the worst of times, they seem aware on some level of the rules by which it functions.
They have faith that no feeling will last forever. The “Have Faith, Calm Down and Don’t Despair” rule.
They sense that suffering is essential for a truly authentic life.
They seem to know or have learned to let their emotions flow naturally rather than to cling to them. They know that it’s not being afraid, depressed, or anxious that destroys their lives; it’s allowing themselves to get stuck in these emotional states. The “Let It Go” rule.
They encounter trauma and are able to make meaning out of what happened (e.g. Viktor Frankl – Man’s Search for Meaning), they are not only immunized against the next adversity, they also become better able to recover more quickly from it.
They not only find more to enjoy about life but are much happier with much less.
They lower the threshold for being thrilled and forgive themselves for their own shortcomings and the world for its seeming random harshness, i.e. “It’s a lot easier to feel great when you don’t go around expecting life to be fantastic.”
They can live, when necessary, with lower aspirations but realistically raise their inspiration.
They are not blindly optimistic and are far from showing the often-irritating, feigned cheerfulness.
They thrive because they mentally remain engaged with their problem long enough to find meaning that helps to accommodate to whatever happens to them.
They continue to be the creative composers of their own consciousness. When on your path you will find people with outstretched arms waiting to help you.
“Happiness is not something that one can successfully pursue, as an end in itself. But emerges as a by-product of our meaningful activities.” —Viktor Frankl