As anyone who has suffered a severe trauma in their life will know, the worst part isn’t always the immediate aftermath.
For at the time of a trauma – be it a death, an accident, retrenchment, a break up – your adrenalin is running high.
There are nurses and doctors distracting you, friends dropping around to see you, things to pack and move and organise. The mundane suddenly becomes your only markers of time – remembering to eat, remembering to sleep, remembering to shower. The days fly past in a haze of deep shock, your mind foggy in a constant state of grief.
No, they aren’t the worst days. You are too busy worrying about simply surviving to think of much else.
The worst days come weeks after, when the dust of your new life begins to settle, and the support buttresses begin to be pulled away. And all of the sudden, you are alone.
Most of the psychological studies that exist around this recovery stage are distinctly negative. The comet’s tail that follows trauma is often forewarned to include depression, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), or anxiety. We’re warned of lingering stresses, the importance of good psychological care, and to be vigilant in noticing the signs of metal health struggles.
But for the first time ever, there is a positive side effect of hitting rock bottom: it’s called Post Traumatic Growth.
The premise is simple: after experiencing deep levels of trauma, a change comes about in a person’s makeup.
Usually, we’re told that these changes will be negative – stress, anxiety, sadness, isolation – but according to Post Traumatic Growth (PTG), there are some overwhelmingly positive changes that occur, too.
The term ‘Post traumatic growth’ was coined by psychology professors Lawrence Calhoun and Richard Tedeschi around a decade ago, however the concept of PTG has only just started to enter popular trauma dialogue in recent years.
Far from being a psycho-babble buzzword, PTG an actually be measured in real-life actions.
Calhoun & Tedeschi note five major signs of PTG:
- Relating to Others – greater intimacy and compassion for others.
- New Possibilities – new roles and new people.
- Personal Strength – feeling personally stronger.
- Spiritual Change – being more connected spiritually.
- Appreciation of Life – an optimistic outlook on everyday events.
All massively challenging lessons to learn at the best of times. And you, lucky you, will possess them all.
Put simply, this is a fancy term for the experience of ‘needing to hitting rock bottom to be able to move on.’ (So there you go – your Mum’s advice is founded in scientific fact…!)
You will be a better person for your pain: you will empathise with others, welcome change with open arms, and look fearlessly into your future. How is this not a WONDERFUL thing?