I’ve heard about PTSD but what about PTG?

We’ve all heard the term PTSD before. Some us of may have even experienced Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), or symptoms like it after a traumatic experience. We often associate trauma and other difficult times with difficult emotions. Difficult emotions are those that leave us feeling uncomfortable, those that are harder to express or emotions that we try to hide or are ashamed to acknowledge, emotions that we don’t really want to feel. Emotions that leave us feeling defeated or sad, discouraged or anxious.

Posttraumatic stress disorder can surface in many ways with depression, anxiety, flashbacks, nightmares and a variety of other symptoms. When something happens and we have a negative reaction to it, often we can interpret it as a traumatic and scaring experience, that that will take years to ‘get over.’

But something that can happen from a difficult experience or an adverse experience is growth. In some individuals, traumatic experiences can help them to find resilience and benefit in response to adversity and other challenges. These experiences help an individual to transform and rise to a higher level of functioning.

We all know inspirational stories of people who have overcome challenges and flourished. J. K Rowling wrote Harry Potter when she was at rock bottom, a depressed single mother who was living on government benefits; Walt Disney was fired from his job in newspaper animation because he wasn’t creative enough; Thomas Edisons’ childhood teachers called his parents several times to tell them that he would never succeed in life and that his brain was too slow to teach; and Bear Grylls early in his 20s, when performing a freefall jumping exercise with the Special Air Services in the British army broke his spine when his parachute failed to open and was told he would never walk again.

In the face of adversity, these people learned to survive and more so they took these opportunities to thrive. They used their adversity and reframed it as challenge, taking rejection, failure and hardship to create something from their suffering. They used their skills, knowledge and self-belief to create and change the world for themselves and others.

These were ordinary people, who in the face of adversity, chose to use physical, emotional and mental strength to become their own inspirational success stories. They focused not on the hardship but on the growth, not on the loss but on the opportunity. They changed their perspective and their mindset to chase down their dreams regardless of the circumstances.

These examples, show us that adversity doesn’t have to lead to trauma. Adversity doesn’t have to end in negative outcomes. Adversity doesn’t have to leave us worse off. In fact we can rise in the face of adversity. In the same way that mountains rise from earthquakes, diamonds form under pressure, and the phoenix rises from the ashes, we too can take the tension, the pressure and the fire thrown at us and overcome such challenges. From trauma, we can grow.

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