Resilience research

Seligman has extensively studied the effects of resiliency trainings in schools and in the US Army. Objective of these programs is to develop optimism by training realistic thinking, flexible problem solving, assertiveness, creativity, decision making skills, relaxation and other coping skills. Other aspects of these programs are training concepts and skills from the positive psychology, such as recognising and applying one’s own talents, positive emotions and positive social relations. In the resiliency program, students were requested to keep track of three good things that happened during a day, for a week. They were asked to think about why these things happened, what was the importance of these things to the student and how can the student ensure that more of these good things happen in the future. Another part of the program asks students to write a letter of grattitude to their parents. In yet another exercise, students were tested to identify certain characteristics. Then the students were asked to apply these characteristics in a new way or in a new (and challenging) situation in school and to report about their findings. The resiliency part of these kinds of programs works with the ABC model: what are the Consequences of certain (often stuck and unconcious) Beliefs about a certain Adversity? The objective is to teach more flexible and accurate thinking about fears and setbacks. Exercises in constructive response are of importance to a 3:1 Losada ratio.

Seligman also mentions exemples of how he has trained American soldiers in resilience and skills from the positive psychology. These programs have also been built on strengths and talents, constructive relation building, constructive communications skills and influencing one’s own (positive and negative) thoughts. An important part of the program was built around the idea of post-traumatic growht. In other words: what can we learn from the majority of soldiers who bounce back to their normal level of functioning after a period of post-traumatic stress? And how can we copy that and scale that up? Based on this, a training program was developed that aimes to 1) understand the reaction to a traumatic event, 2) reducing fear by learning to control certain negative thoughts and images, 3) learning to tell the story about the events and 4) defining which principles and assumptions have been strengthened as a result of the event?


Seligman, Martin, 2011, Flourish – A New Understanding of Happiness and Well-Being – and How To Achieve Them, Nicholas Brealey Publishing