Growth Strategy #74: Post Traumatic Growth

Growth Strategy #74: Post Traumatic Growth

I have worked with enough people in various roles to believe that people respond differently to what one might consider a traumatic experience or event.  I believe life just is, it comes with the good, the not-so-good and the in-between, therefore we have the power to determine how we respond to what we experience.

This article is a little bit different as I am not writing about a specific strategy, but more a response or impact of our beliefs on what we experience in life.  

Post-traumatic growth (PTG) refers to positive psychological changes that individuals may experience after going through a traumatic event or a challenging life circumstance. It is the idea that people can undergo personal growth and development as a result of their struggle with adversity.

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While traumatic experiences can lead to negative outcomes such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression, and anxiety, PTG highlights the potential for positive changes in individuals' beliefs, values, and perspectives.

In a recent conversation with my friend at a wedding, he said that he did not believe trauma was real.  In the vein of wanting to keep things light at the table, I did not engage in further conversation about the topic, and I do think defining what trauma is is important.

Defining trauma can be complex, as it encompasses a range of experiences and can vary across different contexts and individuals. However, in psychological and clinical contexts, trauma is generally understood as an emotional and psychological response to an event or series of events that are distressing or overwhelming, often involving actual or threatened harm to oneself or others.

I also want to note that trauma can look different for individuals, and not all distressing or challenging experiences will lead to trauma. Factors such as individual resilience, coping strategies, and social support networks can influence the impact of a traumatic event on a person's well-being.

One of my favourite quotes shared by Tony Robbins is 'Nothing has any meaning, except for the meaning you give to it.'  This encourages individuals to take ownership of the meaning they assign to what they see as traumatic and the experience that comes from this.

Some common areas of growth associated with PTG include:

  1. Personal strength. Individuals may develop a sense of increased personal resilience, resourcefulness, and self-confidence in dealing with adversity.
  2. Enhanced relationships. Can lead to a greater appreciation for loved ones and deeper connections with others who have gone through similar challenges.
  3. New possibilities: Some people may explore new opportunities, set new goals, and embrace a renewed sense of purpose and meaning in life.
  4. Spiritual or philosophical growth: Some people may experience a shift in their spiritual or philosophical beliefs, finding a greater sense of inner peace.
  5. Appreciation for life: Can lead to a heightened appreciation for life, gratitude for the present moment, and a re-evaluation of priorities.

It's important to note that post-traumatic growth is not a universal outcome and not everyone will experience it following trauma.

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Dr. Bessel van der Kolk is a renowned psychiatrist and author known for his work on trauma and its impact on the body and mind. His book "The Body Keeps the Score" has become a widely acclaimed resource on trauma and the potential for healing.

While PTG cannot be forced or guaranteed, there are strategies individuals can employ to facilitate personal growth in the face of adversity:

  1. Seek support to connect with others who have experienced similar challenges to provide a sense of validation, understanding, and shared wisdom.
  2. Practice self-reflection allocating time for introspection and self-reflection. This can include journaling, mindfulness, and meditation can help process emotions, gain insights, and foster personal growth.
  3. Embrace resilience viewing challenges as opportunities for growth and cultivate a resilient mindset. Focus on building coping mechanisms, problem-solving skills, and a positive outlook.
  4. Cultivate gratitude by regularly acknowledging and appreciating the positive aspects of life. Gratitude can shift focus from adversity to blessings, fostering a sense of well-being and personal growth.
  5. Embrace the new stepping out of your comfort zone to welcome new experiences and opportunities. Take calculated risks, pursue passions, and challenge yourself to grow beyond the confines of past trauma.

Overall this approach highlights the subjective nature of meaning-making. It suggests that individuals have agency in determining the significance and impact of their experiences.

By adopting a mindset that empowers them to find purpose and growth in the aftermath of trauma, individuals can pave the way for post-traumatic growth to occur.

Thank you for reading.

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Dionne

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