Psychoanalysis, Resilience, and Meaning-Making
Can psychoanalysis help build resilience? Psychoanalysis, resilience, and meaning-making may go hand-in-hand.
Resilience involves being able to do better than expected in the face of difficult circumstances. It requires inner strength. What factors may help promote such strength? Meaning-making—finding a sense of purpose and meaning in life—seems to be especially important.
Research has long pointed to the potentially important role that spirituality can play in building psychological well-being and resilience (e.g., Anum & Dasti, 2016; Fombuena et al., 2016; Foskett et al., 2004; Porter et al., 2017; Smith & Carlson, 1997). Studies have explored many aspects of spirituality—experiences of transcendence and awe that can come from sensing something greater than the self, feelings of connection with others, and the meaning-making involved in a personal search for purpose and meaning in life (intrapersonal spirituality). A recent study (Gerson, 2018) has found that intrapersonal spirituality—meaning-making—best predicts both resilience and life satisfaction, at least in early adulthood.
The study explored predictors of resilience and life satisfaction in over 400 undergraduates at two universities in the US. Measures included sense of purpose and meaning in life, spiritual connection to others, and feelings of spiritual transcendence, as well as a host of other variables. Contrary to many current studies which have focused on the importance of transcendent spirituality and social support, the study found that, at least in young adulthood, resilience is best predicted by more individual factors, including a personal sense of purpose and meaningful life. And the relationship between resilience and meaning-making is strong.
What implications may this finding have for psychoanalysis? We know that psychoanalysis seeks a deep understanding of the human psyche—rather than focusing merely on behavior change or symptom resolution, psychoanalysis explores deeper motivations and the potential sources of emotional turmoil. Psychoanalysis and intrapersonal spirituality share a common goal—that of meaning-making. Resilience requires stamina in the face of hardship. It makes sense that a mindset of seeking understanding and a meaningful life—and resilience—may be strengthened by the process of psychoanalysis. Psychoanalysis, resilience, and meaning-making may go hand-in-hand.
To learn more about psychoanalysis, see Classical Psychoanalytic Theory or other courses in psychoanalytic psychotherapy. You may find the brief article on Psychoanalysis and Mindfulness interesting as well.
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Anum, J., & Dasti, R. (2016). Caregiver Burden, Spirituality, and Psychological Well-Being of Parents Having Children with Thalassemia. Journal of Religion and Health, 55, 941-955. doi: 10.1007/s10943-015-0127-1
Fombuena, M., Galiana, L., Barreto, P., Oliver, A., Pascual, A., & Soto-Rubio, A. (2016). Spirituality in Patients With Advanced Illness: The Role of Symptom Control, Resilience and Social Network. Journal of Health Psychology, 21(12), 2765–2774. doi: 10.1177/1359105315586213
Foskett, J., Marriott, J., & Wilson R. F. (2004). Mental Health, Religion and Spirituality: Attitudes, Experience and Expertise Among Mental Health Professionals and Religious Leaders in Somerset. Mental Health, Religion and Culture, 7, 5-22. https://doi.org/10.1080/13674670310001602490
Gerson, M. W. (2018). Spirituality, Social Support, Pride, and Contentment as Differential Predictors of Resilience and Life Satisfaction in Emerging Adulthood. Special Issue on Positive Psychology, Psychology.
Porter, K. E., Brennan-Ing, M., Burr, J. A., Dugan, E., & Karpiak, S. E. (2017). Stigma and Psychological Well-Being Among Older Adults with HIV: The Impact of Spirituality and Integrative Health Approaches. The Gerontologist, 57(2), 219-228. doi: 10.1093/geront/gnv128
Smith, C., & Carlson, B. E. (1997). Stress, Coping, and Resilience in Children and Youth. Social Service Review, 71(2), 231-256. doi: 0037-7961/97/7102-0004