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THE CONNECTION BETWEEN TRAUMA AND PERSONAL GROWTH

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I bet all of you have heard of Post-traumatic stress, but I wonder how many of you know about Post-traumatic growth (PTG). We so often think of the downside of trauma—depression, hyper-vigilance, anxiety and flashbacks—but it turns out that there’s an upside to it as well. The term, post-traumatic growth, was first used by Richard Tedeschi, Ph.D. and Lawrence Calhoun, Ph.D. in 1995 at the University of North Carolina to describe the positive changes that they saw in patients who had been affected by and were struggling with trauma.

If you are someone who’s been impacted by trauma, you might find it hard to believe that there’s anything positive about it, but research tells us that there is. "People develop new understandings of themselves, the world they live in, how to relate to other people, the kind of future they might have and a better understanding of how to live life," says Tedeschi. Tanako Katu, Ph.D. at Oakland University explains that, “PTG…refers to what can happen when someone who has difficulty bouncing back experiences a traumatic event that challenges his or her core beliefs, endures psychological struggle (even a mental illness such as post-traumatic stress disorder), and then ultimately finds a sense of personal growth. It's a process that "takes a lot of time, energy and struggle.”

According to the Post-Traumatic Growth Inventory (PTGI) which uses self-report scales, people may change positively in these areas: appreciation of life, relationship with others, new possibilities in life, personal strength and spiritual change. Does everyone experience growth? Tedeschi says, "It all depends on the trauma, the circumstances, the timing of the measurement…[and] on how you define growth using the PTGI, looking at total score, means, factors or individual items," and he estimates that about one-half to two-thirds of people show PTG.

Key traits that facilitate PTG are extraversion and openness to experience. The former makes people more likely to connect with others (and I would add, perhaps, to seek help from them), while the latter, lacking rigid belief systems, makes them more willing to look at viewpoints that are different from their own. I can validate from my clinical experience that clients who are connected to others do much better recovering from trauma than those who remain isolated and stuck in their traumatic suffering. It’s also been my experience that clients who are willing to shift beliefs and see things from another perspective can heal and often create better lives for themselves than they could ever have imagined. (“Growth after trauma” by Lorna Collier, 11/2016, vol. 47, no. 10, accessed 6/5/17, http://www.apa.org/monitor/2016/11/growth-trauma.aspx).

This article was written by Karen R. Koenig

 Click HERE to Learn more about Karen’s work.

WEBSITES: http://www.karenrkoenig.com/

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HOW TRAUMA CAN CHANGE LIVES — FOR THE BETTER

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Most of us think about trauma as just about the worst thing that can happen to us. And for many, it is. Even if you’ve survived trauma, you still may be dealing with its physical and emotional aftermath, which perhaps includes emotional eating. How, then, can trauma ever have an upside?

 

In “How trauma can change lives—for the better,” Jim Rendon, author of Upside: The New Science of Post-Traumatic Growth, says yes, indeed, it can (TIME 8/3/15, p. 29). Therapists and the general public have long been schooled in the notion that trauma is terrible and nothing more, he says, one that changes peoples’ lives for the worse and stays with them to death. Post-traumatic stress disorder, with its nightmares, hyper-vigilance and flashbacks, can be frightening to experience or live with in a loved one.

 

What, then, is science telling Rendon that makes him believe that trauma sometimes can be anything but a negative experience? He says that “an estimated 75% of people will experience a traumatic event in their lifetime” and that, while many report negative effects, down the road, others report positive changes—greater inner strength, increased intimacy, and a “reorientation” in life toward more fulfilling goals. In short, over time, the pain of trauma can help people “change for the better.” Rendon maintains that “Growth begins with healing from trauma.”

 

He also says that growth and transformative change are based on the premise that people seek and receive help. Sadly, many trauma survivors don’t recognize themselves as having been trauma victims and, therefore, forgo clinical treatment. They’re too scared of opening up old wounds or too ashamed of what happened to them, even when they were innocent victims. Moreover, when trauma occurs, their pre-trauma mental health determines how they’ll react to and heal from it.

 

I’ve seen people do exactly what Rendon says: survive trauma and go on to change their lives—and the lives of others—for the better because of it. This happens when: women and men who are raped go on to become sexual abuse counselors and victim advocates, parents of murdered children put their hearts into changing gun laws and increasing access to mental health counseling, and when people hurt by drunk drivers work to educate the public about drinking and driving. If you’re a trauma survivor, consider how both trauma and healing might change your life for the better. Then, even if you’re afraid, get the treatment you need.

 

This article was written by Karen R. Koenig

Click HERE to Learn more about Karen’s work.

WEBSITES: http://www.karenrkoenig.com/

http://www.nicegirlsfinishfat.com/