“Adversity does not build character, it reveals it.” —Author James Allen
Character strengths are considered one of the main building blocks of positive psychology. Speaking about character strengths in 2011, Christopher Peterson, researcher and co-author of the VIA character strengths classification, stated that, from a positive psychology perspective, one way to deal with problems is by “identifying your strengths and using them to leverage solutions.”
Using character strengths is just one of the many positive coping mechanisms that help foster hope and resilience. By using these coping strategies, we increase our resilience. In their book, The Resilience Factor, resilience coaches Karen Reivich and Andrew Shatté describe how resilience is not just an ability that we’re born with, but a skill that anyone can learn and improve in order to thrive.
Trauma researcher George Bonanno, author of The End of Trauma, includes coping skills in his resilience theory as a protective factor against PTSD. Moreover, recent research conducted by positive psychology researchers during the early stage of the COVID pandemic has shown how intentional use of adaptive coping strategies helps people bolster their mental health during trying times.
There are countless coping mechanisms individuals can draw from in order to effectively deal with difficult circumstances and distressing times, including foundational positive psychology practices such as mindfulness, self-care, mindset, gratitude, and social support. Research into coping has identified more than 400 strategies. In an analysis of 44 studies, researchers Ellen Skinner and Melanie Zimmer-Gembeck found that coping strategies fit under separate “coping families” (self-comforting, problem-solving, information-seeking, support-seeking, etc.), as represented in the Coping Wheel diagram.
Ultimately, everyone copes with adversity in their own way. What is most important is to be intentional about cultivating well-being and adaptively navigating through life’s challenges.
Join Phoebe Atkinson, LCSW-R, and Nancy Kirsner, PhD,TEP, OTR, on Tuesday, December 19, at 12:00 pm ET, for a WBI/JCC webinar titled “How to Foster Healthy Coping Mechanisms: Resources for Trying Times.” Learn how to use the SPIRE model and the Coping Wheel to to create your own toolkit of positive coping strategies. Register here.
Phoebe Atkinson is a core faculty member of WBI’s Positive Psychology Coaching Certification program. She is a licensed clinical social worker, certified coach, and board-certified trainer, educator, and practitioner in psychodrama, sociometry, and group psychotherapy. She serves on the faculty for WBI’s Certificate in Wholebeing Positive Psychology, and is also a graduate of the program.
Along with Jennifer Hanawald, Phoebe teaches the online Positive Psychology: Skill-Building Intensive course and leads the Positive Psychology Coaching Mentorship.
Nancy Kirsner, PhD, TEP, OTR, has been in private practice, teaching, and consulting for 45 years. A graduate of WBI’s Certificate in Wholebeing Positive Psychology, she loves translating positive psychology principles and research into applied practice, utilizing experiential learning. Nancy is co-author, with Phoebe Atkinson, of a chapter of the book Action Explorations: Using Psychodramatic Methods in Non-Therapeutic Settings. She is past president of the American Society of Group Psychotherapy and Psychodrama (ASGPP), and has been the editor of the ASGPP’s Psychodrama Network News since 2018.