We now have research about the role of positive emotions in survivors of terrorist attacks.
Researchers found that the presence of positive emotion within a person is “linear.” This means that it is a kind of reservoir that we can draw upon in the face of negative events, in fact for ANY event in our lives.
Building this reservoir of positive emotions is exactly what we teach in our “Emotional Gym,” where the stress is on the importance of “positive emotional muscle” as a buffer against persistent, routine negativity, or any sense of threat.
However, I never considered it in the face of terrorist attacks, but it holds true even there. A group of researchers applied their skills to survivors of the terrorist attacks in Madrid, Spain, where El Qaeda terrorists placed bombs in 3 subway stops, killing 190 people and wounding 1500 others.
This is what the researchers wrote in The Journal of Positive Psychology in the article, “Perceived benefits after terrorist attacks; The role of positive and negative emotions:”
“Analyses showed that positive emotions experienced on the same day or immediately following the day of the attacks (gratitude, love) fully accounted for the relation between pre-attack resilience and post attack growth, which suggest that positive emotions experienced in the after math of the terrorist attacks increased perceptions of psychological growth.”
What this means is that positive emotions residing in the person before an attack or experienced afterwards increases resilience and diminishes any likelihood of post traumatic stress reactions and related illnesses.
This is very significant stuff.
Positive emotion, what we call “positive emotional muscle,” has great power to be a buffer to negative emotion and events.
It also speeds up recovering from negative emotion: you just don’t spend as much time being fearful, worrying, and being anxious.
If that can happen in the face of terrorist attacks, consider what positive emotion does in the face of our everyday encounters with the things in life that cause us fear and worry and dread.
* The research cited from the Journal of Positive Psychology appeared in an article by Carmelo Vazquez and Gonzalo Hervas., Volume 5, Issue 2, March 10, 2010.
© Dr. William K. Larkin