Humans all over the world face overwhelming threats, but also, threats on a smaller scale. Coping with adversities can be very challenging. To do so, people need the psychological ability to deal flexibly with the encountered obstacles, to invest in those things that are meaningful to them, and to accept what cannot be changed in the course of life. A pathway to psychological flexibility and post-traumatic growth can be the virtue of existential gratitude, which is referring to being grateful for suffering as a blessing in disguise and an opportunity to grow. Virtues are personal qualities that reflect moral excellence, and they are considered the foundations for a good and meaningful life.
In this symposium, we focus on virtues that are fundamental to existential gratitude: humility, hope, gratitude, forgiveness, courage, and spirituality. Humility is the strength of an accurate view of oneself, teachability and appreciation of others (Nielsen & Marrone, 2018). Hope motivates people to direct energy towards a certain goal or future, and planning all that is needed to meet these end states (Edwards, Rand, Lopez, & Snyder, 2007). Gratitude is a life orientation towards noticing and appreciating the positive in life (Wood, Froh, & Geraghty, 2010). Forgiveness is the human strength to replace emotions such as anger, fear, hurt, and bitterness with emotions such as peace, love, and joy when dealing with someone hurtful (Toussaint & Friedman, 2009). Courage is the strength to embrace the dark side of human existence and to make positive changes in our own lives (Wong, 2019). Spirituality is a natural disposition to belief in a higher power or supernatural world that supports an individual’s ability to handle challenges of life (Ramsey, 2012). These virtues, and perhaps others, are thought to be cornerstones of existential gratitude. They interact in a dialectical and dynamical way to support the psychological flexibility to be thankful for all that has happened in life, both good and bad. Together, they strengthen individuals and encourages them to grow after adversity and thrive.
Dr. Lilian Jans-Beken will be organizing this symposium during the Meaning Conference in Toronto which is held from July 30 to August 2, 2020. She is looking for additional papers to be presented during this event. If your research matches the topic of the symposium, and you are willing to travel to Toronto CA next year, please submit you abstract with the form below before January 15, 2020. Details about the conference — venue, speakers, fees — can be found on the website of the International Network on Personal Meaning.
Please forward this message to any person that might be interested in participating in this symposium. The program is preliminary, and women and POC are approached to be invited as keynote speaker.
- Edwards, L., Rand, K. L., Lopez, S. J., & Snyder, C. R. (2007). Understanding hope: A review of measurement and construct validity research.
- Nielsen, R., & Marrone, J. A. (2018). Humility: Our Current Understanding of the Construct and its Role in Organizations. International Journal of Management Reviews, 20(4), 805–824. https://doi.org/10.1111/ijmr.12160
- Ramsey, J. L. (2012). Spirituality and aging: Cognitive, affective, and relational pathways to resiliency. Annual Review of Gerontology & Geriatrics, 32, 131.
- Toussaint, L., & Friedman, P. (2009). Forgiveness, gratitude, and well-being: The mediating role of affect and beliefs. Journal of Happiness Studies, 10(6), 635–654.
- Wong, P. T. P. (2019, May 14). The positive education of character building: CasMac. Retrieved from http://www.drpaulwong.com/the-positive-education-of-character-building-casmac/
- Wood, A. M., Froh, J. J., & Geraghty, A. W. A. (2010). Gratitude and well-being: A review and theoretical integration. Clinical Psychology Review, 30(7), 890–905. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cpr.2010.03.005
Dr. Lilian Jans-Beken is founder and ceo of the Thriving Human Science Center. She graduated in lifespan psychology, received a PhD in positive psychology, and she became an expert in gratitude and mental health. She is a scientific researcher who writes and talks about human thriving in general and gratitude specifically. In 2019, she wrote a book Een zoektocht naar dankbaarheid which is available through her personal website