Posttraumatic Growth

As we travel down the pathway to peace, many find that they have become more empathic and less judgmental. We have gained a newfound sense of connection to ourselves and others. Researchers have identified how trauma can lead to personal growth, even though you may still be struggling with PTSD symptoms. For example, Tedeschi, Park, and Calhoun (1998) list the following growth outcomes:

  • Self-reliance – a recognition of our strength and ability to endure great adversity
  • Vulnerability — a recognition that life is fragile, which can bring a new appreciation for our lives and relationships
  • Self-disclosure and emotional expressiveness — When we confide in others and receive acceptance and compassion in return, results can include greater intimacy, openness, and trust.
  • Compassion and giving to others — more empathy for others in difficult circumstances, less judgmental attitudes, and more willingness and ability to help people in need
  • Appreciation for life — a renewed appreciation for what we have (even as we mourn what we’ve lost) and determination to live according to the priorities that matter
  • Spiritual development and the meaning of life — We can deepen our religious or spiritual beliefs and practices as we struggle with questions of responsibility, control, meaning, and distress.
  • Wisdom — We can emerge from great trauma with important insights. Post-traumatic growth brings a measure of self-acceptance that has long been missing from the lives of those who have accidentally killed or injured other people. Although we will always carry the pain of having killed or injured another person, we only increase the scope of tragedy when we let ourselves become additional “victims.”
Obstacles to Growth:

The Three Ps Through his research in the field of positive psychology Dr. Martin Seligman identified three obstacles to growth and healing after trauma. By becoming aware of these ideas and thoughts, you will be able to gently correct them.

  1. Personalization. When we blame ourselves for factors that are beyond our control, we are denying the reality that we do not have perfect control over ourselves and our world. Even if your accident was your fault, this does not mean that your entire being is bad or evil. Your personhood is much greater than this.
  2. Pervasiveness says because we suffered trauma, nothing else will be untouched – we will perform poorly at work or school, become a less dependable friend, neighbor or parent, or become less competitive as an athlete. The truth is that our trauma does not to have to affect every other part of our lives. We can limit its pervasiveness.
  3. Permanence is the notion that we will never, ever get over our trauma. We have all experienced times when the days were very dark and seemed endless, but we also know that those low times were not permanent.

When we accidentally kill or seriously injure someone, we find the feeling of unforgiveness rearing inside of us. We are human, prone to failure and scarred by it. However, we humans are also equipped to do much good. So let’s strive to accept ourselves for the fragile and frail people we are, recognizing the dangers of personalization, pervasiveness, and permanence regarding trauma, trusting that there are bluer skies ahead.

Co-authored by M. Gray and C. Yaw

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