While stressful life events are an important cause of psychopathology, most individuals exposed to adversity maintain normal psychological functioning. The molecular mechanisms underlying such resilience are poorly understood. Here, we demonstrate that an inbred population of mice subjected to social defeat can be separated into susceptible and unsusceptible subpopulations that differ along several behavioral and physiological domains. By a combination of molecular and electrophysiological techniques, we identify signature adaptations within the mesolimbic dopamine circuit that are uniquely associated with vulnerability or insusceptibility. We show that molecular recapitulations of three prototypical adaptations associated with the unsusceptible phenotype are each sufficient to promote resistant behavior. Our results validate a multidisciplinary approach to examine the neurobiological mechanisms of variations in stress resistance, and illustrate the importance of plasticity within the brain's reward circuits in actively maintaining an emotional homeostasis.