From Survival to Success: Exploring Resilience & The Immigrant Experience with Justine Gatt Ph.D., Lan Cao & Harlan Lan Cao

Original Air Date Wednesday, June 8, 2022 

Moving residences, whether elective or forced, is known to be one of the most stressful things humans can do. Dealing with the trauma of new places and new faces can be difficult for both parents and children. Why do some people bounce back after a change and others sink into themselves? What about when a family moves into a different culture? How do individuals maintain a sense of well-being in the face of a 180-degree life change? To determine the role genetics and environment have in calculating survival or success, Positive Psychology Podcast Host Lisa Cypers Kamen speaks with three women about the resilience across cultures and the immigrant experience.

Justine Gatt is the Lead Scientist at Gatt Wellbeing and Resilience group. She describes the multiple studies she has been a part of that measure wellbeing and resilience in various cultures and with varying stressors. Mother, Lan Cao and Daughter, Harlan Lan Cao, co-authored Family in Six Tones: A Refugee Mother, An American Daughter. Each describes how her experience differed from the other in school, society, and when writing the book.

Justine Gatt Ph.D. — Exploring Resilience:

  • Justine is involved in a 10-year study on the resiliency trajectories of 1600 healthy adult twins in Australia. [2:21]
  • A key outcome of the study was the creation of a new scale to measure well-being. [4:44]
  • Justine defines hedonia and eudaimonia, the two measures of well-being in the study. [7:35]
  • The Stress Inoculation effect is a phenomenon that helps some cope and adapt to controllable stressors. [10:21]
  • Justine describes another study that compared wellbeing and resilience across cultures and evaluated the impact of migration as a stressor. [16:05]
  • The six dimensions to better well-being and resilience. [21:45]

Justine Gatt with gray shirt, guest of From Survival to Success: Exploring Resilience & The Immigrant Experience with Lan Cao & Harlan Lan CaoAssociate Professor Justine Gatt is Lead Scientist of the Gatt Wellbeing & Resilience Group at Neuroscience Research Australia (NeuRA) and the School of Psychology at the University of New South Wales. She obtained her Ph.D. in Psychology at the University of Sydney. Professor Gatt currently leads several national and international projects in resilience and well-being. Her work has been recognized by multiple awards including the Worldwide University Network (WUN) Success Story, the Commonwealth Health Minister’s Award for Excellence in Health and Medical Research (2014), and the NHMRC Excellence Award for Top Ranked CDF Applicant (2014). Professor Gatt also serves as an Editorial Member for several scientific journals.


Justine Gatt Associate Professor
@NeuraAustralia on Twitter
Neuroscience Research Australia on Facebook
@NeuraAustralia on Instagram 

Lan Cao & Harlan Lan Cao — The Immigrant Experience:

  • In their book, The Bible With and WIthout Jesus, Amy-Jill Levine & Marc Zvi Brettler explain the text of the Bible in its original context and how different religions interpret it. [26:17]
  • A StoryCorps interview led to the creation of the book, Family in Six Tones: A Refugee Mother, An American Daughter. [28:52]
  • Lan and Harlan worked on their chapters separately due to the very personal content. [33:49]
  • Lan and Harlan had different views about how things happened but to tell the full story required both voices to be heard. [36:26]
  • Lan describes what it was like to be one of the first post-war Asian immigrants in Virginia. [43:11]
  • Harlan’s experience integrating into a U.S. school was much different than her mother’s. [47:11]
  • The U.S. immigration website recently removed the reference to America being a nation of immigrants. [50:01]
  • Harlan shares how her Vietnamese heritage is built into her life. [51:43]
  • Lan wants to nurture America’s generous heart. [54:20]

Lan Cao & Harlan Lan Cao with black shirts, guest of From Survival to Success: Exploring Resilience & The Immigrant Experience with Justine Gatt Ph.D.Lan Cao is the author of Monkey Bridge and The Lotus and the Storm, and most recently of the scholarly work Culture in Law and Development: Nurturing Positive Change. She is a professor of law at the Chapman University School of Law, and an internationally recognized expert specializing in international business and trade, international law, and development. She has taught at Brooklyn Law School, Duke University School of Law, University of Michigan Law School, and William & Mary Law School.

Harlan Margaret Van Cao graduated from high school in June 2020 and will be attending UCLA. She was born in Williamsburg, Virginia, and moved to Southern California when she was ten.

Book: Family in Six Tones: A Refugee Mother, An American Daughter



Lan Cao Author
@LanCaoWrites on Twitter
@thelancao on Instagram
@harlanv_c on Instagram

This podcast episode about resilience and the immigrant experience is sponsored by:

Are We Happy Yet? Eight Keys to Unlocking a Joyful Life A boot camp manual for greater emotional fitness. Happiness waits for no one and sometimes we all need support. What is getting in the way of your happiness right now? 

HFactor: Where is Your Heart? — Lisa’s documentary film that explores the journey of human happiness. Emotions are contagious and happiness is a universally desired state. We tend to forget we all have the freedom to be happy or the liberty to be miserable each day.

“Hedonic well-being is the short burst we get in our lives and eudaimonia has sustainability.” @LisaKamen on @HH_TalkRadio Click To Tweet“Difficult things are going to happen to every one of us. It is coming at some point in our lives. What defines the person who is able to be more happy versus less happy when these things happen?” @LisaKamen on @HH_TalkRadio Click To Tweet“We know that moving homes, moving residences is one of the top ten stressors.” @LisaKamen on @HH_TalkRadio Click To Tweet“We are a nation of immigrants. Every single one of us except the true natives whose land was taken from them.” @LisaKamen on @HH_TalkRadio Click To Tweet“We studied traits and how much our genetics versus our environment actually contributes to a particular trait.” @NeuraAustralia on @HH_TalkRadio Click To Tweet“The concept of well-being and resilience are related but they are different concepts.” @NeuraAustralia on @HH_TalkRadio Click To Tweet“There is a phenomenon we refer to as the stress inoculation effect where if you are exposed to minor but controllable stresses you are given the opportunity to learn how to cope with it so the next time you have the tools you need to… Click To Tweet“I think we can learn at any age.” @NeuraAustralia on @HH_TalkRadio Click To Tweet“Childhood trauma impacts the brain.” @NeuraAustralia on @HH_TalkRadio Click To Tweet“Migrants did report a higher average number of traumatic life events in the previous year.” @NeuraAustralia on @HH_TalkRadio Click To Tweet“The Six Tones is just a very subtle pointer toward how her refugee status impacted parenting.” @LanCaoWrites on @HH_ Click To Tweet“It (Family in Six Tones) is so personal. It's not like writing a fiction novel where you can hide behind a character. You open yourself up to judgment.” @LanCaoWrites on @HH_TalkRadio Click To Tweet“We basically wrote in parallel universes and when it was done as a first draft we then went back.” @LanCaoWrites on @HH_TalkRadio Click To Tweet“I do think that trauma can be passed down to generations.” @LanCaoWrites on @HH_TalkRadio Click To Tweet“When you are a minority but a sizable minority, I think you are going to encounter more hostility because the majority of the population feels under siege. If you are just one, you are not a threat.” @LanCaoWrites on @HH_TalkRadio Click To Tweet“I was never head-on bullied. It was more of just an energy situation for me.” @LanCaoWrites on @HH_TalkRadio Click To Tweet “America, even though it has a lot of problems, is beloved around the world because of its goodness in taking in the people of the world.” @LanCaoWrites on @HH_TalkRadio Click To Tweet “America represents freedom to me because we fled in order to get freedom.” @LanCaoWrites on @HH_TalkRadio Click To Tweet



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