My father-in-law, Duane Bryers, passed away recently—weeks short of his 101st birthday. We held a memorial at his Tucson home for family and close friends. For me, Duane personified resilience and the benefits of a positive attitude.
As a psychiatrist, I have spent much of my career studying depression and treating people who suffer from it. I understand the concept of CBT, as it encourages depressed people to reconceptualize their views of themselves, the world, and their futures. In recent decades, scientists in a range of biological disciplines have advanced concepts of resilience, reframing a problem like depression from a dichotomy of normal versus pathological to a spectrum, in which some people are predisposed to dark and negative thoughts and emotions, while others see the proverbial glass as half full or more.
Duane always looked on the bright side of everything. He made his own luck. His positive attitude was infectious. The greatest blow I ever saw him take was the loss of his beloved wife of 30 years. Dee was younger, and we assumed he would precede her. But when she left him alone, he grieved, then moved forward by initiating a new phase of life in his 90s—buying a new house and new furniture. A very gifted artist, Duane spent hours every day at his easel. Until a few years ago, he continued to create beautiful new paintings and sell them for serious money.
In time, neuroscience will shed light on the biological and experiential bases that allow some people to innately see the positive and embrace a can-do attitude, while others are easily daunted and discouraged. Sometimes, when a bad event challenges me, I think of Duane and his smile.
-Alan J. Gelenberg, M.D.
Editor, Biological Therapies in Psychiatry
Shively/Tan Professor and Chair, Psychiatry, Penn State University
Editor-in-Chief, Journal of Clinical Psychiatry