Post-traumatic growth (PTG) is a psychological concept that explores the positive transformation some individuals experience after facing traumatic events. Unlike post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), which focuses on the negative impacts of trauma, PTG emphasises the potential for growth and resilience. So what exactly is post-traumatic growth, and how can you experience it?
The concept was developed by psychologists Richard Tedeschi and Lawrence Calhoun in the 1990s. They identified five key beliefs for growth to occur. Growth occurs when a person has appreciation for life, relationships with others, believes in new possibilities, has personal strength, and experiences spiritual change. These areas are not mutually exclusive and often overlap, creating a complex web of growth opportunities.
Appreciation for life often manifests as a renewed sense of gratitude for everyday experiences. Simple moments, like watching a sunset or enjoying a meal, gain heightened significance. This shift in perspective can lead to a more fulfilling life.
Improved relationships are another common outcome. Trauma can act as a filter, helping individuals recognise the importance of authentic connections. Many report feeling a deeper sense of compassion and empathy, leading to stronger bonds with family and friends.
New possibilities emerge as individuals reassess their priorities and goals. Some may change careers, go back to school, or engage in activities they had previously avoided. This reevaluation can lead to a more aligned and purposeful life.
Personal strength is often cited as the most noticeable area of growth. Surviving and overcoming trauma can instill a sense of resilience and empowerment. This newfound strength can be applied to future challenges, making individuals more adaptable and resourceful.
Spiritual change, while not universal, is significant for some. Whether it's a deepening of existing beliefs or the adoption of new spiritual practices, this transformation can provide a framework for understanding and coping with trauma. Trauma, in some form, is inevitable. If you have a growth mindset and the right qualities, perhaps you can use them to grow.
Post-traumatic growth is not a universal experience. It certainly is not a means to look down on someone who may not grow after trauma. Not everyone who goes through trauma will experience growth, and many will require therapy or medication to manage PTSD symptoms.