“What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger”, famously said philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche. While deeply traumatic experiences can be damaging, scientists are now confirming that small amounts of trauma can indeed make us more resilient.
For example one study showed that people with chronic back pain who had experienced some serious adversity were more mobile than those who had encountered either a lot or none at all.
Researcher Mark Seery (1): ‘A lot of ideas that seem like common sense are not supported by scientific evidence. Plenty of research shows that having miserable life experiences is bad for you. In fact 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 negative events have negative effects. But I 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.’
Those who go through difficult experiences are given the chance to develop an ability to cope with such situations in the future. ‘Negative life experiences can toughen people, making them better able to manage subsequent difficulties’. (1) Report on adversity and resilience - in Current Directions in Psychological Science.