Psychological immune system

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Robert Maurer

Psychological immune system

The psychological immune system must be strengthened daily. We must train our mental defenses to better face adversity, defeat the viruses of despair and the bacteria that carry negativity and stress.

Last update: May 03, 2022

We all have a so-called psychological immune system. Sometimes it is a bit weakened, so we are unable to deal with all the “pathogens” we encounter on a daily basis with adequate effectiveness.

Stress, the viruses of exhausting relationships and the impact of adversity are those elements from which the psychological immune system usually protects us.

But does the human brain really have a system similar to that set of tissues and organs responsible for producing antibodies? Not exactly, since it is an even more fascinating mechanism, but unknown to most.

It was Dr. Dan Gilbert of Harvard University and social psychologist Timothy Wilson of the University of Virginia who explained a surprising fact to us in 2001.

First, humans often underestimate their great ability to cope with adversity and emotional storms in which they are often immersed.

Beyond what we can think of, there is an innate spring, but often ignored, capable of helping us to face difficulties with more creditworthiness than we imagine.

The psychological immune system does not have a specific angle in the brain, but it exists and is dormant. It is that mechanism through which we can overcome the most upsetting events and even the small daily setbacks. However, like antibodies, it is sometimes particularly vulnerable.

Living in negative and oppressive environments "makes you ill" and weakens the psychological immune system.

"In great adversities every noble soul learns to know himself better".

-Friedrich von Schiller-

Studies on the psychological immune system

The psychological immune system is directly related to resilience. It happens to be surprised by the ability of some people recover from a traumatic event.

We admire them, but we don't always understand them. How do they do it? Why do some people act with greater resilience and others lack this psychological resilience?

In 22016 Carlos Osorio, a neuroscientist at King's College London, conducted a study on the brains of resilient people. This resistance to adversity is mostly due to genetics.

These individuals cope with stress more effectively. Thus, and thanks to a series of neurochemical processes, they more effectively regulate the levels of cortisol in the blood.

In addition to genetic factors, psychological ones take over. Some people have more coping resources and strategies to regulate anxiety, set limits, work on emotional well-being and, in essence, cope with daily difficulties.

All these processes are directly related to what neuropsychologists refer to as the "psychological immune system". Let's see below the two defenses that make up this mechanism.

Psychological defenses to combat stress

The function of the psychological immune system is to protect us from the effects of stress. If we are able to cushion its daily impact, we will gain in well-being and quality of life.

  • While the organic immune system protects us from pathogens, the psychological one it places defensive barriers against concerns, the fears and unexpected blows that alter our emotional balance.
  • Far from being immune to suffering, it allows you to face it, manage it, accept it, understand it, transform it, etc.
  • The psychological immune system makes us rational. This means not being overwhelmed by a negative and debilitating state of mind, not reinforcing irrational thoughts. It also implies a mentality aimed at growth and not stagnation.

Self-esteem, our best defense system

Another component of the psychological immune system is self-esteem. The study conducted by Dr Beatrice Balgiu of the University of Bucharest shows this interesting relationship.

Strong and healthy self-esteem has a positive impact on personality and the ability to recover from adversity.

This psychological dimension makes us visible to the world and also to ourselves. It is more than just a positive perception of oneself.

Above all, it is feeling capable and courageous enough to face difficulties.

It also helps us to set limits, to protect ourselves, to know how to say “no” and “yes” with sufficient conviction towards what generates us well-being.

How to strengthen the psychological immune system?

There are people who come out of the "factory" with this wonderful mechanism. However, other times, factors such as a traumatic childhood or a disadvantaged social environment make the personality less resilient.

Even so, we all have tremendous latent potential. An innate force waiting to be awakened. Just as we take care of ourselves daily to strengthen our natural defenses, we can also do the same with psychological defenses.

Strategies for strengthening the psychological immune system

A highly recommended book for training and seeing the product of this strength is In Search of Meaning in Life in Viktor Frankl.

One of the first steps on which we must work is precisely the search for a purpose, to have a meaning in life, a reason, a series of values.

Secondly, you have to guarantee greater resistance and vigor to our self-esteem. In this case, psychological therapy can be very helpful.

The third factor is to work on rationality, attention and a positive approach. Having control over your thoughts, knowing where to turn your attention and not slipping into pessimism is essential for psychological well-being, as well as extremely necessary. In this case, meditation can help us.

Finally, a strategy that fosters progress is creativity. Difficulties can often be solved with original solutions.

Creative responses open doors. They help us to get out of harmful environments, from situations that are potentially counterproductive for us. Innovating, creating and granting ourselves new opportunities facilitates our development.


Let's take care of our psychological immune system on a daily basis and we strengthen this dimension necessary for our well-being.

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