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"Broaden & Build" a Concept of Self Resilience

Posted on January 4, 2015 at 2:45 PM Comments comments (1)

Broaden and Build” a Concept of Self Resilience  

Carolyn Catchings

January 04, 2015


Barbara Fredrickson (2004) has published a series of studies and a theory, called the “broaden-and-build” model, which proposes that positive emotions and attitudes broaden our thinking about possible solutions to problems. If we are open to new ideas, we think better. Over time this broader perspective enables us to build broadly our coping skills and confidence. Thus, positive and optimistic societies become more innovative, resilient, socially adjusted, and healthy. Consistent with this theory, I have also found the traumatic experiences I’ve encountered as well as risks I have taken during my life have expanded my resilience threshold and increased my ability to face adversity with more confidence.

Family and social support in trauma or adverse situations also helps develop resilience. Bronfenbrenner’s (1979) person-process-context model of human development examines the implications for both micro- and macro-level interventions in trauma (Harney, 2007). An ecological perspective emphasizes the interrelationships between individuals and the contexts in which they reside and the reciprocal, interactive processes occurring between macro- and micro-level context. A child’s development, for instance, is shaped by a number of influences, including family, community, and nation (Harney, 2007).

In my childhood environment, family support helped strengthen and sustain me in traumatic or violent conditions. The recent traumatic events in our city (and country) present many opportunities to use these concepts of positive psychology to help heal and restore.


Carolyn Catchings, MA, CRC, PLPC



Bronfenbrenner, U. (1979). Toward an experiential ecology of human development. American Psychologist, 32, 513-531.

Fredrickson, B. L. (2004). The broaden-and-build theory of positive emotions. Philosophical transactions-royal society of london series b biological sciences, 1367-1378.

Harney, P. A. (2007). Resilience Processes in Context: Contributions and Implications of Bronfenbrenner's Person-Process-Context Model. Journal Of Aggression, Maltreatment & Trauma, 14(3), 73-87.


Happiness vs Wellness

Posted on October 3, 2014 at 6:10 PM Comments comments (0)

Happiness vs Wellness

Carolyn Catchings, MA. CRC, PLPC

October 3, 2014


Most people believe that life circumstances have a powerful influence over their happiness (“if I get rich or married I will be happy” ) but the research findings suggest that our circumstances are the source of only 10-15% of our happiness. In short, our genes and our brain chemistry may be barriers to happiness…and our hopes that good fortune will bring us happiness via good circumstances may be illusions. Martin Seligman (2002) contends there is another approach to happiness which has much more potential--he believes we have the ability to develop and use personal habits, attitudes, and traits that can increase our happiness. This is his general thesis and the basis of his self-help approach. 

Seligman, being an academic researcher, cites a great deal of research and presents it in an interesting way, but be mindful that he is mostly discussing the "commonly used ways to gain happiness" that are currently available to the average person. In general, he doesn’t invent new happiness-producing methods. Remember, too, this is science...just estimates of correlations between basic circumstances and happiness for large populations of people.  There are also probably hundreds of unique ways for unique individuals to gain happiness which may not be noted in preivious research . You don't have to be married and have children...or be educated, highly successful, and make big money...or even be religious to be experience happiness. I have always believed happiness to be a state of mind which can be experienced through an individual’s structuring of beliefs; However, I choose to yield to the term “wellness” rather than “happiness” the term happy often suggests something should be “happening”. Wellness however, is defined by one’s ability to experience well-being and positive functioning.

Often, I find a person’s belief of rather they are happy are not is stemmed from their perception of their power to change circumstances. As sense of helplessness or hopeless is often at the core of feeling unhappy. Seligman (2002) was once best known for his research of learned helplessness, an important aspect of hopelessness and unhappiness. He became interested inCognitive-Behavioral Therapy in which the patient is helped to look for evidence for and against his/her own beliefs. The cognitive processing of positive traits in my personal life has enabled me to selectively change my cognitive structure in response to environmental stimuli (Reich, 2012). The reorganizing of my cognitive structure of self-perception allows me to respond more positively in negative environment or situation which poses a perceived threat or risk.

Cognitive behavior therapy has been utilized as perhaps the boldest innovations of therapist in the inclusion of mindfulness techniques. In mindfulness-based cognitive therapy eight weeks used to change thoughts related to depressed feelings and relate differently to thoughts (Reich, Zautra & Hall, 2012).


Reich, J. W., Zautra, A. J., & Hall, J. S. (2012). Handbook of adult resilience. New York, NY: The Guilford Press.

Seligman, M. (2002). Authentic happiness: Using the new positive psychology to realize your potential for lasting fulfillment. New York: Free Press