Maintenance of Normative Well Being

The model of normative well-being, shown in Figure 1, is designed to integrate a variety of empirical linkages and compatible theoretical positions in the well-being

Figure 1. Contributions of Personality, Affective, and Social-Cognitive Variables to Well-Being under Normative Life Conditions. NA = Negative Affectivity; PA = Positive Affectivity; GSE = Generalized Self-Efficacy. Reprinted with Permission from Lent.4

literature.4 The first thing to note is that the model disaggregates the major components of SWB—life satisfaction, positive affect, and negative affect—into separate variables and considers the interplay among them. In particular, the model identifies overall life satisfaction as the key criterion of well-being from a clinical perspective, and posits that life satisfaction is influenced directly by (a) core personality/affective traits, (b) domain satisfaction (i.e., how satisfied individuals feel within their central life domains, such as work and family), and (c) involvement in valued life tasks and, especially, progress at central personal goals.

In a nutshell, life satisfaction is predicted to be greatest when people possess favorable traits (e.g., tendency to experience high positive affect and low negative affect), are satisfied within their most prized life domains, participate actively in tasks they value, and perceive that they are making progress at goals that are most important to them. In addition to these direct influences, life satisfaction is assumed to be influenced indirectly by self-efficacy, outcome expectations, and goalrelevant environmental resources within people's central life domains. For instance, to the extent that people (a) feel efficacious at performing the tasks necessary to achieve their goals, (b) are optimistic that their goal pursuit will lead to valued outcomes, and (c) feel that they have access to resources needed to achieve their goals, they are likely to make progress at their goals and, in turn, to be satisfied in their central life domains. Domain satisfaction then promotes overall life satisfaction. In other words, the effects of self-efficacy, outcome expectations, and environmental resources on life satisfaction are likely to be channeled through domain satisfaction.

Another thing to note about the model is that personality traits are assumed to affect life satisfaction not only directly but also through indirect routes, such as cognitive appraisals of the self and one's life conditions (e.g., those with chronically high negative affect may tend to report lower self-efficacy and to perceive less support for their goal pursuit). In addition, the relation between overall life and domain satisfaction is seen as bidirectional in that people are likely to be happy overall when they are happy in the life domains they care most about and, conversely, general life happiness is likely to spill over into people's various life domains. For instance, a person who prizes his or her work life above all else will tend to be most satisfied with life in general to the extent that he or she is satisfied at work; at the same time, generally happy people are likely to be happy at work (and everywhere else).

This is a general sketch of the normative well-being model, side-stepping for the present purposes details about certain variables, conditions that may moderate relations among particular sets of variables, additional paths of interest, and possible clinical implications. The take-home message for now is that, in the normal course of events, people's sense of well-being (defined in terms of overall life satisfaction and satisfaction within one's most valued specific life domains) is viewed as only partly a matter of personality and affective traits. Traits may well influence satisfaction outcomes both directly and through their linkages to cognitive, behavioral, and social determinants. But people are not just passive bystanders to the "great genetic lottery that occurs at conception."19 From the perspective of the normative well-being model, people possess the potential to influence their own affective states (i.e., to assert agency), in part through the goals they develop and pursue, the supports they are able to marshal in support of their goals, and the activities in which they choose to immerse themselves. This take-home message contains more than a note of hope for those not blessed with a sunny disposition at birth.

Figure 2. A Model of Restorative Well-Being, Showing the Interrelations of Personality, Affective, and Social-Cognitive Variables in the Coping Process. Reprinted with Permission from Lent.4

5.2. Restoration of Well-Being Under Stressful Conditions

While Figure 1 portrays well-being in the normal course of day-to-day functioning, Figure 2 tries to capture the means by which people recover their sense of well-being after it has been disrupted by stressful or traumatic life events. This model is actually an expansion of the first one. That is, normative well-being maintenance processes do not cease functioning during life crises, only to be replaced by separate restorative ones. Rather, in such cases effortful coping mechanisms are assumed to augment the usual things people do to maintain their sense of well-being. As in the first model, personality and affective traits play central roles vis-a-vis domain and life satisfaction, but they do not act alone in steering the affective ship, so to speak—nor does that ship merely function on automatic pilot.

According to the restorative model, the usual SWB maintenance process may become destabilized when people perceive they are faced with problematic external events (e.g., health threats) or internal states (e.g., existential questions) (see the top, central portion of Figure 2). Consistent with Lazarus and Folkman's49 stress coping model, under such conditions, people engage in a cognitive process of appraising the nature of the stressor (e.g., threat, actual harm or loss, challenge) and whether they have the capabilities or resources to cope with it. Stressors that are deemed especially significant (e.g., life altering), and for which the person believes he/she lacks the necessary coping options, are likely to have the greatest adverse impact on domain and life satisfaction (and, concurrently, depression and anxiety).

Parenthetically, the impact on domain satisfaction is based on the assumption that most adverse events differentially affect particular life domains. For instance, negative work events may diminish job satisfaction and, in turn, overall life satisfaction (to the extent that work is a central life domain for the individual). However, certain events hold the potential to exert a crossover effect on multiple life domains. For instance, job dissatisfaction or loss may adversely affect family relations and, in turn, family satisfaction. More to the present point, facing (and surviving) cancer may affect functioning in and satisfaction across multiple life domains (e.g., work, family, social, and other roles may all become disrupted to varying degrees). The impact on overall life satisfaction, and the coping burden, may be especially pronounced to the degree that a stressor adversely affects satisfaction within multiple life domains.

Getting back to the path model in Figure 2, it may be seen that, where coping efforts are perceived as necessary, people may draw on a variety of strategies. Again, in keeping with stress coping theory, such methods comprise two general categories: problem-focused coping (trying to solve the problem at hand directly) and emotion-focused coping (dealing with the emotional consequences of the problem, such as anxiety).49 Other schemes for classifying coping methods have also been offered, such as approach versus avoidance coping. The general conclusion is that active efforts at problem-solving are preferable when the stressor is controllable, and emotion-focused efforts (e.g., reframing or accepting the problem) represent a viable approach when the stressor is not controllable.

Problem-related coping efficacy is seen as an important part of the coping process (see Figure 2), partly mediating the effect of coping strategies. Coping efficacy, a form of self-efficacy, refers to people's beliefs in their ability to negotiate particular stressors or obstacles. These beliefs affect whether people construe particular life events as benign, upsetting, or challenging; the actions they take to manage environmental obstacles; and how they deploy their coping strategies.31,50 Favorable beliefs regarding coping efficacy are likely to help people make the most of the coping methods at their disposal, draw effectively upon environmental supports, and persist at problem-solving efforts when faced with arduous conditions.

Environmental supports and resources comprise a crucial part of the restorative model. People do not cope in a vacuum; they are aided (and sometimes stymied) by the nature of their support systems. Supports and resources include environmental assets like access to coping models, general social support (including such functions as reassurance and cognitive guidance), opportunities to acquire new coping strategies, and interpersonal messages that bolster coping efficacy (e.g., credible exhortations from important others that one has the ability to cope with the stressor; see Lent and Lopez's51 model of relational efficacy).

As shown in Figure 2, environmental agents may have a direct effect on problem resolution (e.g., by playing an advocacy role), in addition to their indirect effects as sources of coping methods and supporters of coping efficacy. Where natural support systems are deficient or become exhausted, which is sometimes the case in dealing with chronic stressors, professional interventions may be employed to foster new coping methods and to convey support for the individual's coping efficacy. Rather than being methods of last resort, such interventions may well serve the goals of secondary prevention—about which more will be said in a later section.

Finally, let us return to the role of personality and affective traits. As in the maintenance of normative well-being, affective dispositions have key (and multiple) roles to play vis-a-vis the emotional recovery process subsequent to life traumas. As depicted in Figure 2, personality variables, such as positive and negative affect, are seen as influencing restoration of domain and overall life satisfaction both directly (via the natural return to affective baseline process15) and indirectly through cognitive and behavioral routes. More specifically, particular traits may affect how people label life events, perceive their coping efficacy, and select coping options. For instance, those with a tendency toward high negative affect may be inclined to respond adversely to problematic life events and to hold less favorable views of their coping abilities. Those with high levels of positive affect or dispositional optimism may, to the contrary, read their circumstances and coping abilities in more favorable terms. More highly extraverted persons may be more inclined to marshal social forms of support (or to have more sources of social support available) than do those high in introversion. Those higher in the trait of conscientiousness may have the advantage of setting and marking progress at their personal goals, which can help to promote and reinstate domain satisfaction. These are just some of the more specific trait-emotional recovery paths that seem plausible.

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