FRIEDRICH NIETZSCHE’S widely cited maxim—“that which does not kill him makes him stronger”—is often taken as truth. Yet as sensible as it might seem, the saying has rarely been tested. Psychologists have little idea whether unpleasant experiences really do increase resilience. A study just published in Psychological Science suggests they do exactly the opposite.
In 1995 David Almeida, a psychologist at Pennsylvania State University, began an experiment involving 1,483 people. He asked them to take two tests. The first involved reporting, on a scale of one to five (where one was “none of the time” and five was “all of the time”), how often during the previous 30 days they had felt worthless, hopeless, nervous, restless or fidgety; how much of the time everything felt like an effort; and how often they were so sad that they felt nothing could cheer them up.
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