On Psychological Growth and Vulnerability: Basic Psychological Need Satisfaction and Need Frustration as a Unifying Principle

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Humans have a potential for growth, integration, and well-being, while also being vulnerable to defensiveness, aggression, and ill-being. Self-determination theory (R. M. Ryan & E. L. Deci, 2000, Self-determination theory and the facilitation of intrinsic motivation, social development and well-being, American Psychologist, Vol. 55, pp. 68–78) argues that satisfaction of the basic psychological needs for autonomy, competence, and relatedness both fosters immediate well-being and strengthens inner resources contributing to subsequent resilience, whereas need frustration evokes ill-being and increased vulnerabilities for defensiveness and psychopathology. We briefly review recent research indicating how contextual need support and the experience of need satisfaction promote well-being and different growth manifestations (e.g., intrinsic motivation, internalization), as well as a rapidly growing body of work relating need thwarting and need frustration to ill-being, pursuit of need substitutes, and various forms of maladaptive functioning. Finally, we discuss research on differences in autonomous self-regulation and mindfulness, which serve as factors of resilience.

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