One of the more hopeful and optimistic paradigms in our field comes from Positive Psychology. The concept of Post-Traumatic Growth, based on the work of Tedeschi and Calhout, teaches us that despite the fact that pain, loss, and suffering are associated with traumatic events, as we process and reflect upon the experience we can begin to gain wisdom, insight and resiliency. Through optimism, extroversion, positive affect and a willingness to stay open to experiences, we can manifest post-traumatic growth in arenas including: interpersonal relationships; the belief in new possibilities; personal strength; spiritual and religious growth; and a deeper appreciation for life.
I love the idea of Post-Traumatic Growth (PTG) because we tend to get caught up in the negative side effects of trauma, while overlooking the fact that life-changing experiences can ultimately mean life changing for the better. We should never minimize the impact that trauma has, but as we process our pain we should also begin to assess for the emergence of PTG. We should look for the capacity to change our priorities about what is important in life as we slowly develop a greater appreciation for life itself. PTG can lead to new interests and endeavors, as we are more likely to change what needs to be changed in our life, and take the healthy risks we might not have tried before. The positive by-product of trauma can lead to greater self-reliance and the belief that we can handle difficulties, as we realize that we are stronger than we thought.
When we experience PTG there is an increase in our spiritual faith or a deepening of religious beliefs. Surviving a traumatic event can create a willingness to count on others and be more accepting of them. We can feel a greater sense of closeness to people, and a belief in their inherent goodness. We will put more energy and effort into our relationships, become more willing to express our emotions, and have a greater acceptance that things will actually work out. Post-Traumatic Growth gives us more appreciation for every day, more gratitude, and greater self-compassion. It is my hope and prayer that everyone whose lives have been touched by trauma and pain, can emerge from their sorrow and suffering and reach a place of Post-Traumatic Growth; a place of true healing.
Please share your experiences in guiding clients towards Post-Traumatic Growth.