Posttraumatic Growth: 5 Keys to Developing Resilience
A friend of mine forwards articles she finds as she researches for a major paper. Recently, she sent a copy of an article about posttraumatic growth and life-threatening physical illness. The article, by Kate Hefferon, Madeleine Greal and Nanette Mutrie, cites this quote:
It is through this process of struggling with adversity that changes may arise that propel the individual to a higher level of functioning than which existed prior to the event.
Engaging In Your Own Posttraumatic Growth
As humans, we have a need to understand, process, integrate and assign meaning to our experience. After trauma, we look back and develop stories to explain what we have survived. Those stories can lead us into terrific posttraumatic growth ("I'm incredibly strong to have been able to survive that!") or down the path of posttraumatic stress ("It's entirely my fault that this awful thing happened to me; I'm cursed.").
In an article in the New York Times, Jim Rendon interviewed Sgt. Jeffrey Beltran, who survived an I.E.D. attack in Iraq in 2005. Struggling with a mild brain injury, numerous surgeries, and finally PTSD, Beltran chose to stay in the Army which, as part of the Army-wide program, Comprehensive Soldier Fitness, enrolled Beltran in classes to help him become more resilient and recognize how the trauma of combat has changed him for the better. Looking back, Beltran credits this process with giving his personal evolution a name and enhancing his personal development. Now, he shares his story publicly to help others.
Reflecting on all of this makes me wonder:
How often do you notice the ways in which trauma has made you develop in positive ways?
Unique Paths to Posttraumatic Growth
The achievement and outcome of personal growth after trauma is unique and individual. It took me almost thirty years to be able to positively assess the growth I'd experienced. Today, I can qualify it by noticing, for example, I deeply believe in my own mental, physical and emotional strength in ways I did not prior to my trauma (Neuroplasticity: What You Need to Know in PTSD Recovery). I trust that I can endure truly horrific events. I feel driven to do something meaningful with my life because of what I survived. I do not fear death. I do try to make every day be life-affirming.
Whether you think you've evolved in a way that would have researchers applauding your posttraumatic growth, or you've just quietly noticed shifts in yourself, all positive change is heroic. Sometimes, we need to be very clear in what the changes have been so that we can appreciate ourselves for it. It's easy to be critical; how often do you give yourself a gold star for a job well done?
5 Areas of Posttraumatic Growth Development
According to the posttraumatic growth research, there are five main areas of positive development:
- perceived changes in self
- closer family relationships
- changed philosophy in life
- better perspective on life
- strengthened belief system
Exploring your own evolution in these areas - either in the past, or what you plan for the future - offers five keys to resilience that you have completely in your control.
If you were to rate yourself in each category on a scale of 1 to 5 (5 being deep and lasting change), in which categories have you experienced posttraumatic growth, and what do you think about it?
Rosenthal, M. (2013, December 4). Posttraumatic Growth: 5 Keys to Developing Resilience, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2019, September 17 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/traumaptsdblog/2013/12/posttraumatic-growth-5-keys-to-developing-resilience