Did you know that growth is the most common outcome from traumatic situations?
Martin P. Seligman, Ph.D., a leading researcher, author and professor in the field of positive psychology notes in his most recent book, Flourishing: A Visionary New Understanding of Happiness and Well-Being, that Post-Traumatic Growth occurs much more often than the onset of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder even in some of the worst situations.
“To our surprise, individuals who’d experienced one awful event had more intense strengths (and therefore higher well-being) than individuals who had none.”
Seligman’s research is in agreement with that of many psychologists, who have been studying Post-Traumatic Growth (PTG) for decades. And, they are not alone – ancient philosophers and theologians also believed that traumatic events could lead to transformation and growth.
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PSTD) is so well-known that many folks are beginning to think it’s inevitable, and it’s not. My goal is not to take anything away from those who suffer from this debilitating disorder. PSTD is real and serious. It’s been listed in the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) since 1980. And, there is a huge body of research on how to treat PSTD and there’s great success in doing so.
My goal is to make sure that we know that Post-Traumatic Growth is possible and happens with greater frequency than PSTD. Not only do individuals, who face major trauma live happy and fulfilling lives after dealing with the trauma, many flourish and experience high-levels of personal growth as Seligman states in Flourishing:
“A substantial number of people also show intense depression and anxiety after extreme adversity, often to the level of PSTD, but then they grow. In the long in the long run, they arrive at a higher level of psychological functioning than before.”
Good to know? You bet! With all the negative news we hear daily, combined with the growing perception that experiencing major trauma automatically dooms people to a life filled with sadness, fear and possibly the inability to function effectively, it’s easy to become overwhelmed, depressed, or to give up hope.
I think it’s healthy and important to have all the info we can before we jump to any emotional or psychological conclusions. Post-Traumatic Growth is good news and worth sharing. Letting folks know that it is exists, is more prevalent than most of us could ever imagine, and there are ways to create and to develop PTG is a good thing. I’ll be sharing more on the research and the related recommendations in the near future.
In the meantime, do not give up, no matter what you have faced or have been facing ever since. There is a light at the end-of the tunnel, and my belief is, if we know that we will all be more likely to keep it lit.