Do you have positive illusions about the way you compare with others, make decisions, control your circumstances?
While this enhanced self-perception may not, particularly in the extreme, cause you to win friends and influence people – it may actually serve you well in buffering stress and coping with adversity.
A recent study by Gupta and Bonanno gathered longitudinal data to examine the relationship between self-enhancement and adjustment of college students to potentially traumatic events over their four years. It is the only study to date using on-going reactions instead of post trauma retrospective reports.
The findings are interesting and significant.
Why Does A Self-Enhanced View of Self Serve As A Buffer In The Face Of Traumatic Events?
As the researchers suggest, when someone has experienced highly aversive and threatening events, their sense of self, judgment, mastery and control has been assaulted. As Boulanger suggests, they have been “ wounded by reality.” Coping and recovery necessitate dealing with a sense of helplessness to recover a more positive view of self.
It would seem that a positive, self-enhanced view of self, while biased and not strictly defined by reality, may make it easier to re-frame, re-define and re-instate a self who can manage and cope despite obstacles or changes in life’s parameters.
The Power of Positive Thinking and Illusions After Trauma
Positive Illusions: Most of us have them. For example, studies show that most people rate themselves “better than average” in driving, leadership, and athletic abilities, teaching ability etc. Such illusions carry with them a sense of psychological well-being. They help us find a way not to sweat the small stuff and to find a way to manage the big stuff.
It is to the advantage of the accident patient to feel “I am healing better than most.” “I will be back to driving quicker than the doctor expected.” “I am a smart patient – I understand what I have to do.”
Illusions of Control: Most people believe that they can control more than they actually can in life. What is important and relevant to improved coping is that people do switch their control related beliefs as life and the unexpected intrude. For example, the cancer patient switches from survival or complete cure to control of symptoms and life tasks.
It the belief that you can still make a difference – still exert control that is positive and health promoting. Whether it is to re-define a way to work or to plan to race with a prosthesis – in new domains control continues and is associated with good adjustment.
Unrealistic Optimism: Perhaps what makes optimism such a gift is that it is not grounded in reality. Studies suggest that most people anticipate that their future will be brighter than can be reasonably justified statistically. That’s the importance of optimism – it is about hope and possibilities.
Traumatologist and Advocate for International Victim’s Rights, Yael Daneli described that when she worked with survivors in Rwanda, the adults could not look past the reality of death and destruction to hope but when she told the children that no one could take away their dreams – they got it – they had hope.
Think Big, Feel Big, Dream Big, Live with Hope.
Woman and her reflection photo available from Shutterstock.
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Last reviewed: 28 Mar 2012