What is Post-traumatic Growth (PTG)?
What doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger
Have you experienced unexpected positive changes as a result of negative events? Maybe you were surprised to find a silver lining on the other side of a life-changing trauma. This is what is known as Post-traumatic Growth, growing from adversity and transforming as a result of trauma.
Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is a mental illness that gets a lot of coverage in the media – the flashbacks, nightmares and other adverse consequences that can haunt a sufferer for years. We tend to associate PTSD with events outside normal human experience such as warfare, acts of terrorism or natural disasters like an earthquake. However post-traumatic stress is far more common than we think. It can occur as a result of any stressful event that overwhelms the ability to cope such as a relationship break-up, a diagnosis of illness or bereavement.
Post-traumatic Growth (PTG) is the not-so-familiar opposite of PTSD, the unexpected but positive psychological changes that can happen in the wake of adverse life events. These changes happen in 3 areas – a change in your sense of yourself, a change in your relationships and a change in your philosophy on life. “I no longer see what life took from me – I see what it gave me” is how one survivor puts it. People who have experienced PTG talk about having a greater appreciation of life, they have a changed sense of priorities, stronger relationships and a richer spiritual life. They have a better sense of their abilities and see new possibilities for their life.
What helps people towards PTG rather than PTSD is to find a way of accommodating the tragedy into their mental landscape. Life won’t ever be the same but eventually they pick up the pieces and put life back together in a new fashion that holds some appeal. The metaphor of a broken vase is helpful to understanding this concept. When you experience a life-shattering event there are two choices. Either glue the fragments back together – life will look the same but it will be more fragile than it was before. Or you can pick up the pieces and make a beautiful mosaic from them. Life is different but in many ways stronger. Building resilience can help you on the path to PTG and this is the subject of What is Post-traumatic Growth, a new book I’m writing. This is the follow-up to Positive Psychology for Overcoming Depression.
The book, to be published in March 2017, will explore the journey from post-traumatic stress to post-traumatic growth with case studies to inspire. There are chapters that will help you cope, strengthen and grow from trauma.