299 Coping with Misfortune

Based on research done Bulman, Ronnie. J., & Wortman, Camille. B., (1977) written by Bethany Wellman, M.S

How does one who experiences a serious accident cope with their misfortune?

Do victims’ beliefs about the causes of their tragic accidents affect their ability to cope?

Psychological researchers interviewed 29 individuals paralyzed in serious accidents about their beliefs about the cause of their accident, whether anyone was to blame, and their current happiness. The victim’s social worker and nurse rated their coping skills.

Results identified that blaming another was predictive of diminished coping skills; however, self-blame was a predictor of positive coping. Likely, self-blamers believed they were still in control, and could make decisions to enhance their lives now and make it meaningful. All participants posed the question, “Why me?” with most developing specific hypotheses to understand why the accident occurred. For those who had their accident while engaging in an enjoyable activity, they coped better seeing their accident as unavoidable.  Oppositely, if a participant felt an injustice had occurred, blaming another, they more likely had trouble coping.

To stop blaming is not easy. However, deciding to take control of one’s life now, and working to make one’s life meaningful, will more likely lead to coping and happiness.


Bulman, R. J., & Wortman, C. B. (1977). Attributions of Blame and Coping in the “Real World’ Severe Accident Victims React to Their Lot. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology35(5), 351-363.

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