Post Traumatic Growth
We all know about Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, or PTSD. It has been well documented since the Vietnam War. Most of us have had some post trauma stress after events that we did not see coming, with symptoms such as heightened anxiety, nightmares, flashbacks, and difficulty trusting people again. Few of us may have considered that trauma and setbacks can be opportunities for growth.
Sometimes something happens to us that rocks us to the core, stops us in our tracks, and we know we will never be quite the same again. After the shock and pain, after the disbelief and the horror, it is possible, usually with the help of a wise person and professional, to seek a new belief system, find new meaning in life, develop an adjusted and possibly stronger and wiser identity.
Five areas of potential growth
Tedeschi and Calhoun (in the Journal of Traumatic Stress, 1996) mention five areas of potential growth:
a new appreciation of life;
a changed relationship with others such as wanting to help others going through a similar trauma;
developing new possibilities in life;
a newfound sense of personal strength; and
spiritual or existential change.
That's how the light gets in...
Post Traumatic Growth does not take place as a direct result of trauma, but importantly – as a result of the person’s struggle with the aftermath of the trauma which provides the rich soil that can yield growth. Research shows that a person can continue to build positive personality traits all through life and continue to grow positively even after the most upsetting experiences. Psychological support can assist in posttraumatic growth by providing not only support, but cognitive restructuring of experiences and new narratives that can lead to growth and ultimately, joy and meaning.
Many of us may have heard of Viktor Frankl’s book Man’s Search for Meaning, written after the highly traumatising experience of being in Nazi concentration camps where death was always a possibility. In his book, Frankl emphasises free will and that life never ceases to have meaning, even in suffering and death. Frankl concludes that we always have the freedom to choose our reactions, and to hold onto hope of a better future.
In 1992 Leonard Cohen released his haunting song “Anthem”, containing the following lines:
"Forget your perfect offering.
There is a crack, a crack, in everything.
That’s how the light gets in."
Making something beautiful from the pain
The art of Kintsugi provides wonderful symbolism for the concept of post traumatic growth. Kintsugi is the Japanese art of repairing broken pottery by mending the areas of breakage with lacquer dusted or mixed with powdered gold, silver or platinum. It provides concrete imagery to making something beautiful from the breaks, the cracks, the pain that breaks us open and feels like we can never be put together again. Instead of hiding our cracks, our flaws and our traumas, we can make it into something beautiful, growing into a human with more depth, slower to judge, more aware of what really matters in life and with a greater appreciation also of the gift of our own lives.
Trauma counselling & therapy | Adelaide Psychology Clinic
Our compassionate and professional depression counselling team will help those seeking help to manage the impact of trauma.
With our training, knowledge and extensive experience, our Psychologists and Therapists can help you better cope with your symptoms while arming you with the tools you need to manage and treat Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, or PTSD.
The most important thing to remember is that help is available and there are treatments that work.
Adelaide Psychologists & Therapists | Trauma therapy & counselling
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