Post Traumatic Growth
Life is full of irony and paradoxes. The more people I meet, the more my theory about post traumatic growth is confirmed. We all want to live a life that is trauma free and coasts along smoothly. I can’t imagine anyone deliberately choosing hardship over harmony. Yet there are many virtues associated with experiencing a difficult time. When we are struggling and life has pushed us into a corner, we go into survival mode and we find skills and strengths that we never knew we had. This allows us to grow and be more resilient in life.
My own childhood was pretty miserable and loveless. I felt alone and unsupported most of the time and was also criticized for being a burden and an annoyance. There was no ‘soft place’ to fall. My parents wanted me out as soon as I could get a job and I found work and became independent very quickly. As a result, I am now in a position to fend for myself and don’t expect others to fix my life for me. Of course, I have had other emotional issues that I have had to work on – so it’s not all love and light but there have been many positives that have emerged from my traumatic upbringing.
I have often found that those that are particularly driven (and often successful with it) are the ones who received conditional love and who never felt quite good enough to win their parent’s love. Irrespective of the reality, this is how they perceived their childhoods. This message that you are not good enough creates a hole that needs to be filled. It creates an inner vacuum that pushes a person to keep striving.
On the other hand, I have also encountered individuals who have had a relatively easy childhood by their accounts. Loved, provided for and not expected to do much in life. It is often these individuals who feel lost and directionless and fail to kickstart their lives once their education is over.
The literature seems to be in agreement that Post Traumatic Growth refers to three benefits that victims report following adversity. These are
(1) finding strength and abilities,
(2) improving good relationships, and
(3) a positive change in priorities and philosophies.
The literature and research evidence is mixed when it comes to explaining the link between Post Traumatic Growth and wellbeing. Three main hypotheses have been put forward, which are
(1) Post Traumatic Growth leads to positive life changes and this improves wellbeing,
(2) Post Traumatic Growth does lead to life changes but this is stressful and so leads to lowered wellbeing, and
(3) Post Traumatic Growth is a coping strategy and its effectiveness as a coping strategy mediates the relationship between Post Traumatic Growth and wellbeing. Research is inconclusive as to which hypothesis is accurate and so further work is required.
One thing is clear, if you have an optimistic, ‘survivor’s’ mindset – trauma will help you to be more resilient. Attitude and perceptions about what happens to you is hugely influential in the outcome. Coping skills and strategies are developed, a sense of being able to protect oneself and navigate life’s tricky paths reside within a person who has experienced Post Traumatic Growth. This can be the difference between giving up and carrying on with persistence, self belief and determination.