The People from Whom We Gather Strength

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The People from Whom We Gather Strength

In my writings and presentations about the theme of resilience I always highlight the notion of a “charismatic adult,” a term introduced by the late psychologist Julius Segal. I cited him in last month’s article. Segal, in his discussion of the journeys of children who triumphed over adversity, defined such an adult as one from whom “a child or adolescent gathers strength.” I was immediately drawn to this definition when I first read it in an article written by Segal in 1988. I found the image of “gathering strength” not only to be very powerful but in concert with a major finding in the resilience research literature. When adults who had overcome challenging childhoods were asked to reflect upon what factors contributed to their perseverance and hope, an almost universal response was that there was at least one adult in their lives who steadfastly believed in and supported them. Their resilience was rooted in great part in their interaction with this charismatic adult....

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