Assault on the Self: Positive Illusions and Adjustment to Threatening Events

  • Shelley E. Taylor
  • Margaret E. Kemeny
  • Geoffrey M. Reed
  • Lisa G. Aspinwall


During a lifetime, the integrity and organization of the self may be threatened by a variety of assaults. These may be interpersonal, ranging from personal rejection to violence; they may involve the physical self, through trauma or debilitating, disfiguring, or life-threatening disease; or they may involve assaults to one’s sense of personal security, such as a robbery, an assault, or a natural disaster. The goal of our research program has been to identify the processes through which people adjust to these negative or threatening events. Previous research has focused largely on the adverse emotional and life-style consequences of such assaults. For example, Janoff-Bulman (1989; Janoff-Bulman & Frieze, 1983) has argued that people’s benign positive conceptions of themselves and the world, which she refers to as assumptive worlds, are often shattered in response to victimizing events. Assumptions about the world and the self must then be rebuilt on a shakier foundation, accommodating the new and negative perceptions that such events inspire.


Human Immunodeficiency Virus Acquire Immune Deficiency Syndrome Psychological Control Aversive Event Threatening Event 
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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag New York, Inc. 1991

Authors and Affiliations

  • Shelley E. Taylor
  • Margaret E. Kemeny
  • Geoffrey M. Reed
  • Lisa G. Aspinwall

There are no affiliations available

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