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Post Traumatic Stress: Emotion as a Moderator

May 31

G’day to you all! I hope you are well wherever you are. We are having a bout of cool wet weather out here on the West Coast. Good for creativity? For this installment, I would like to wrap up a review of the research before taking a look at putting it all together in a generic model reflecting the response to psychological trauma.

There is a body of work compiled by two well respected investigators (Block and Kremen) that conceptualizes resilience as a personality characteristic (e.g. hardiness, locus of control). In this work the relationship between intelligence and “ego resiliency” was examined. The work generated further research and a wide set of results. When the influence of intelligence was controlled it was found that both resilient men and women shared an outgoing, warm, assertive, calm, energetic, independent, active, productive, humorous, and poised nature. The body of work was summarized by the original investigators in this way: “The biosocial problem of the individual is adaptation. Insufficiencies of adaptation are signalled to the individual by the intrusion of affect. Yet, current expanded conceptualizations of intelligence have remained ‘cognitive’ and still largely ignore affective and motivational aspects of behaviour.”

The authors of this key body of work have added to the “state of the art” by asserting that ego resilience seems to reflect not only personality qualities, and how they are used to adapt, but also a capacity to modulate the stress response (including traumatic stress). The work provides support for the idea that positive emotions establish a foundation of effective behaviours with regard to the modulation of stress.

This work was replicated by a number of other researchers and their findings. Those findings suggested that the psychological survivors of extreme hardships and threat to life could be characterized by: high levels of hardiness, and low levels of perceived stress; but also by the presence of gratitude, interest, love, empathy, and a string of other positive emotions.

So there it is. A quick review of the literature in the areas of “PTSD”, resilience, and coping. I hope you have been able to grasp that our approach to the phenomenon of post traumatic stress should be based upon more than sentiment, sorrow, and sensationalism. Next time I shall attempt to clearly communicate the key variables that interact dynamically to determine resilient behaviours triggered by (potentially) traumatic life experiences. Until then………


Dr. Mike Webster
Registered Psychologist
#0655 (BCCP)

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