The 3 P’s of Emotional Resilience

When something catastrophic happens to us, it is very easy to fall into an ocean of grief and sadness. In May 2016, Sheryl Sandberg, the Chief Operating Officer of Facebook, spoke on loss and resilience to the Class of 2016 at the University of California at Berkeley. She explained in a beautiful way how to deal with it along the following lines.

After spending decades studying how people deal with setbacks, psychologist Martin Seligman found that there are three P’s—personalization, pervasiveness, and permanence—that are critical to how we bounce back from hardship. The seeds of resilience are planted in the way we process the negative events in our lives. There are three P’s, all of which are essential to building your resilient self.

P1: Personalization


The belief that we are at fault. This is the lesson that not everything that happens to us happens because of us.

We should always take the responsibility in our life but that is different than blaming oneself for everything as well. Studies show that getting past personalization can actually make you stronger. Teachers who knew they could do better after students failed adjusted their methods and saw future classes go on to excel. College swimmers who underperformed but believed they were capable of swimming faster did. Not taking failures personally allows us to recover—and even to thrive.

P2: Pervasiveness


The belief that an event will affect all areas of your life. Everything is awful. There’s no place to run or hide from the all-consuming sadness. One setback will spread to all aspects of your life.

In reality, it gradually becomes clear that not all areas of life are affected by a tragedy in the same way. Little by little, life can be improved and brought back to normal by concentrating on those areas.

P3: Permanence


The belief that the sorrow will last forever. It never does. This P is most commonly observed by everyone who has seen a loss of a close life.

We often project our current feelings out indefinitely. We feel anxious—and then we feel anxious that we’re anxious. We feel sad—and then we feel sad that we’re sad. Instead, we should accept our feelings—but recognize that they will not last forever.


In summary, the 3 P’s are

  1. Personalization, not everything happens because of you
  2. Pervasiveness, you’re not bad at everything you do
  3. Permanence, the feelings will dampen with time

To watch the address itself, see below.

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