It is no less than tragic that those who have endured trauma or significant tragedy are viewed as damaged or weak, incapable to do what they once did. It is often as if they have become less human as a result of their challenging experiences. Luckily, research turns this myth on its head by revealing that people who have faced great adversity are surprisingly stronger and better prepared for many life challenges!
Dr. Steve Taylor, Psychology lecturer at Leeds Beckett University and author of Out of the Darkness, explains the phenomenon known as “post traumatic growth” (originally coined by psychologist Richard Tedeschi). This exciting hypothesis suggests that people experience positive life changes and newly discovered strengths after traumatic life experiences, such as serious illness, house fire, combat, and divorce.
The idea focuses on one’s perspective. Do you view yourself as the hero or victim? Are you a survivor or do you see yourself as defeated? Do you continuously ask yourself why this happened to you, or do you focus your mind on overcoming what happened? These questions steer one’s overall view of an experience; if steered in the right direction, the past will no longer determine the future.
Dr. Taylor states that turmoil can often lead one into a transformation and, if one allows it, through suffering one can reach a deeper level of awareness. Suffering can deepen us and help us gain important benefits. These benefits can manifest in keener compassion for others (especially their suffering), newly discovered skills, a greater appreciation and passion for life, and so on.
This growth doesn’t come easy, of course; it requires work to accept what happened and to focus on how experience has made you stronger – not what it took from you. Some people reflexively pivot to this positive state of mind without external influence, and without the help of family and other support systems. Others may need a little help. Park Ridge Psychological services can help meet you where you are and help you get to a place of acceptance, strength and inner peace.
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