Based on informal surveys that I have conducted, I’ve found that almost everyone has heard of PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder), but almost no-one has heard of PTG (Post Traumatic Growth). This is surprising considering that PTG is much more prevalent than PTSD. Most people that go through a major trauma do not get PTSD or other psychological disorder. They handle it fine. People are naturally resilient for the most part. When we hear stats like 15 percent of the soldiers returning from combat develop PTSD, it means that 85 percent did not. So I look at that in a positive way…the glass is 85% full.
And there have been studies that showed that 30 to 50 percent of people actually grow from whatever trauma they experienced. So they are better human beings in some way due to the adversity that they were able to pass through.
Just because people experienced growth doesn’t mean they didn’t suffer or go through a period of distress. They may have suffered intensely, with their entire worldview shattered. But it does mean that they had positive changes resulting from the event and its aftermath.
Tedeschi and Calhoun have found in their research that people commonly report growing in these five areas:
A greater appreciation for life
More meaningful interpersonal relationships
Enhanced spiritual beliefs
New direction and purpose in life
An increased sense of personal strength
Odds are in your favour that you will experience growth as opposed to PTSD if you are touched by tragedy. To tilt the scales in your favour even more just make a conscious decision that you will gain something positive. There is power in simply deciding that you will overcome. Decide that you will find meaning in your suffering, and that you will grow in one of the ways I mentioned above.
That is life, the human experience. It is also what most movies are about. The hero’s journey. The protagonist experiences adversity, they suffer, they rise to the challenge, they learn, they grow and they succeed.
I’m not saying trauma is good or we should welcome it into our lives, but when it does find us…rise to the challenge, grow and succeed.