What does growth have to do with trauma, stress and PTSD?

While PTSD is not the only response to trauma, much is known and talked about it. However, PTSD is not the only response to trauma. Not everyone who has experienced a traumatic event has developed PTSD, in fact studies show that the majority of trauma survivors do not develop PTSD.

There is another response to trauma referred to as post-traumatic growth (PTG). Much less known or talked about, it is a long-lasting positive psychological change experienced as a result of trauma. This is not to minimize the pain, suffering and impact of the loss one experiences following a traumatic event, rather to raise awareness that there is another long-term possibility for us under traumatic circumstances.

What I find particularly interesting, is the fact that people who are more resilient, will not experience PTG, they will manage the aftermath using their own coping mechanisms. It’s people who are not necessarily able to do that that are forced by trauma to re-examine their belief systems and possibly rebuild the foundational structure of their self.

While we cannot program people towards growth rather than stress, people can be coached to develop skills that allow for turning adversity into advantage. Some of these include curiosity,  flexibility, openness and acceptance.

If personal growth is at the forefront for you in 2021, it may be well worth to include developing, strengthening or mastering these skills in your developmental plan. I believe it’s particularly relevant now as the Covid-19 pandemic becomes a global traumatic experience.

*To learn more about PTG, refer to the work of Richard Tedeschi, Lawrence Calhoun, Kazimierz Dabrowski, Todd Kashan, Jennifer Kane and others.