2011 TC Pressroom
Teachers College, Columbia University
Teachers College Columbia University

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Trauma Affects the Self-Absorbed the Least



Professor George Bonanno termed individuals able to fully recover quickly from the events of September 11 as "self-enhancers."

Following the attacks of September 11, Dr. George Bonanno of the clinical psychology program found that individuals termed "self-enhancers" dealt best with the traumatic events.  Despite this display of resilience, he said these may not be persons most people consider likable.  "Self-enhancers are somewhat grandiose," he stated. "They are preoccupied with themselves, they score high on measures of narcissism, and the research shows pretty clearly that they are annoying to be around."

Bonanno's team interviewed three groups of people for the study, including one group in the first tower when it was hit, one group within four blocks of the towers, and one group more than four blocks away.  Twenty percent of participants were self-enhancers who suffered fewer post-traumatic effects and were generally happier over time than others.  "There are multiple and unexpected ways to be resilient," Bonanno noted. "We used to think it was a rare thing, but now we know that there are people who have traits that may not be the healthiest in the world but which nonetheless seem to predict a resilient outcome."

The article, entitled "Balanced Life: Self-Absorbed Handle Trauma Best," appeared in the June 23 edition of U.S.News.com.

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