What is it?
Post traumatic growth can be defined as a positive psychological change that can result after a traumatic experience or something we consider as a life crisis.
This can be from suffering a disease that alters your mobility or ability to be included, a natural disaster, death of a loved one, childhood abuse or neglect, suffered an accident, a domestic violence relationship for example. Anything which divides you psychologically creating a before and an after, something which changes you as a person, your perspective on your life in that here and now.
Trauma whilst it doesn’t seem like it, is an important aspect of human transcending.
What it means is we grow, develop and change from the person we were before the trauma or life crisis occurred and become someone who has developed beyond our previous levels of psychological functioning. Helping us to understand and make sense of our life and the world we live within.
What does this mean in real terms?
In real terms of living with our trauma or life crisis, I won’t minimise the journey because it’s not an easy process. It can usually be and often is stormy, feels treacherous and a very demanding passage, however it is also stormy, treacherous and demanding to stay stuck in the aftershocks and affects following a trauma or life crisis, to us and the people we are surrounded by.
What I noticed mid crisis, fear was the upper most feeling for me and it was fear that stopped me even dipping my toe into healing waters, kept me stuck, if I tried, I felt fear, if I didn’t try, I felt fear. So, long into my personal crisis one day I figured I’d rather feel the fear and do it anyway and be supportive and helpful to myself. Helping myself, however, was a new skill I’d never even thought about, it was a revelation for me to acknowledge I even had a choice. I had to ponder upon and wear the two thoughts for weeks that spanned into months before I could actually start putting the thoughts into action, I figured that was OK too.
What I also noticed was Post Traumatic Growth could and did co-exist with Post Traumatic Stress ..… crazy I know.
You might ask why an arduous passage if your healing yourself. Well, that’s because Post Traumatic Growth demands as individuals on a unique and individual journey not to reject the idea of deep distress, negative emotions and painful bodily sensations.
When the going gets tough we need to find our tough. Its never left you, its what sustained you when in the trauma or crisis, your tough is there but perhaps just covered over by a multitude of stress, negativity, pain and distress.
If you experienced a traumatic childhood then the fear, stress and distress has etched itself into your brain and nervous systems as the ‘norm’, and it’s how you now handle fear and stress.
Now as an adult these psychological patterns are outdated and no longer serve you in the here and now because they were created by a child to survive childhood. Now as an adult we need adult psychological patterns to help us survive adult living, such as self-awareness, recognising outworn patterns, compassion, empathy, mastery and mental health.
Post Traumatic Growth demands you find your tough and transcend all you have known, because it is what you know which keeps you stuck. Adversity can be harnessed and put to good use for your benefit, growth and development as an individual person in your own authentic right.
How do we achieve Post Traumatic Growth (PTG)?
According to Richard Tedeschi and Lawrence Calhoun who researched PTG in the 1990, they identified five categories of growth. 1, Appreciation of life 2, Relationships with others, 3, New possibilities in life, 4, Personal strength, 5, Spiritual change.
Nothing arduous about those you might say. However, life crisis and trauma are powerful events that stir and loosen the embedded and established thoughts, feelings and beliefs, erupting like a volcano, spilling moulton lava all over our inner worlds. Affecting how we live, relationships with others and ourselves, miss opportunities, be critical and down on ourselves and perhaps questioning our relationship with God.
Questioning all that we know, our expectations, beliefs, the world around us and the people in it.
We’re all different and will process our trauma and crisis in our own unique way.
I learnt I didn’t really have a choice because the force of my eruption took over in what Jung called a critical transition period in our adulthood. The stage of finding meaning and purpose rather than material things.
It takes time and a lot of effort, and practice, practice and more practice putting new thoughts, feelings and beliefs into actions. Remember PTG is about psychological change, and any change takes time and often arduous effort. But it is well worth all the time and effort for your future happiness, living a life of your choosing, creating contentment and peace. Afterall we all want the things we dream about right!
We all have the capacity to grow from our adversities and to make conscious choices how to live our lives, some will and some won't take this journey and that's OK
How can we help ourselves to achieve PTG?
· Acknowledge what is happening to you in the here and now.
· Acknowledge what happened to you in the past, be realistic and honest with Self.
· Psychoeducate yourself on trauma, abuse, childhood development if necessary.
· Learn all you can about trauma and then about how it affects you personally.
· Don’t go it alone enlist trusted friends and family to support you in the immediate.
· Join specialist groups with people who have experience similar traumas to you.
Some of the healing needed is difficult to achieve alone, for example emotional regulation is difficult to gain because an unregulated nervous system needs a regulated nervous system to mirror. Expressing yourself to family or friends may be too close for comfort and may involve them at points of your trauma.
Healing is a gift you give to yourself to have your narrative witnessed, heard and validated needs time and effort and takes courage so engage a professional counsellor who understands the process you are embarking upon and who is trauma informed, knowledgeable, experienced.
Asking for help and support is a skill in itself and perhaps the first in a long line of new skills, perspectives, beliefs and expectations.
I offer a free half hour telephone or video call so we can chat about your needs before our first session.