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Post-Traumatic Growth: Finding Meaning and Creativity in Adversity

We prefer to avoid trauma

To be sure, most people who experience posttraumatic growth would prefer to side-step the trauma.

Trauma shakes up our world and forces us to take a second look at our goals and dreams. When we realize that we cannot change a situation, we position ourselves for growth and new opportunities.

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Post-Traumatic Growth: Finding Meaning and Creativity in Adversity

Post-Traumatic Growth: Finding Meaning and Creativity in Adversity

https://blogs.scientificamerican.com/beautiful-minds/post-traumatic-growth-finding-meaning-and-creativity-in-adversity/

blogs.scientificamerican.com

8

Key Ideas

Viktor Frankl

Viktor Frankl

"In some ways suffering ceases to be suffering at the moment it finds a meaning."

Moving forward

At this time in history, many people are wondering whether we will have a life again. Will we recover with dignity?

Science suggests that we will do more than recover: we will show immense capacity for resiliency and growth.

From Resilience to Growth

Resilience is the ability to maintain a relatively stable and healthy level of psychological and physical functioning during and after a very traumatic event.

Studies reveal that resilience is actually common and can be attained through multiple unexpected routes. Studies further show that the majority of trauma survivors do not develop PTSD, and most report unexpected growth from their experience.

Seven Areas of Growth

  • Greater appreciation of life
  • Greater appreciation and strengthening of close relationships
  • Increased compassion and altruism
  • The identification of new possibilities or a purpose in life
  • Greater awareness and utilization of personal strengths
  • Enhanced spiritual development
  • Creative growth

We prefer to avoid trauma

To be sure, most people who experience posttraumatic growth would prefer to side-step the trauma.

Trauma shakes up our world and forces us to take a second look at our goals and dreams. When we realize that we cannot change a situation, we position ourselves for growth and new opportunities.

Turn adversity into an advantage

When the foundational structure of the self is shaken, we are in the best position to pursue new opportunities is our lives.

  • It helps us to be curious about situations and increase the likelihood that we will find new meaning.
  • If we shed our natural defense mechanisms and approach the discomfort head-on, we are able to view everything as fodder for growth.
  • Rumination is a sign you work hard at making sense of the event, and in conjunction with social support and other outlets for expression, it will create new structures of meaning.

Common Responses to Trauma

Emotions such as sadness, grief, anger, and anxiety are common responses to trauma.

Trying to "self-regulate" those emotions, or avoiding feared thoughts, feeling, and sensations, will make things worse and reinforce the belief that the world is not safe or void of opportunities and meaning. But acceptance and embracing psychological flexibility may enable you to face the world with exploration and openness.

Creating from Trauma

Deliberate rumination leads to an increase in five domains of posttraumatic growth. Two of those domains - positive changes in relationships and increases in perceptions of new possibilities in one’s life—were associated with increased perceptions of creative growth.

Research supports the potential benefit of engaging in art therapy or expressive writing to help in the rebuilding process after trauma.

SIMILAR ARTICLES & IDEAS:

True happiness

It isn’t about being happy all the time. Striving for a happy life is one thing, but striving to be happy all the time is unrealistic.

Psychological flexibility

Being open to emotional experiences and the ability to tolerate periods of discomfort can allow us to move towards a richer, more meaningful existence. The way we respond to the circumstances of our lives has more influence on our happiness than the events themselves.

The 2 philosophical paths to happiness

  • Hedonistic: in order to live a happy life we must maximize pleasure and avoid pain. This view is often short-lived.
  • Eudaimonic approach: takes the long view and argues that we should live authentically and for the greater good. We should pursue meaning and potential through kindness, justice, honesty, and courage.

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Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)

PTSD is a mental health disorder that begins after a traumatic event. Events may include:

  • A natural disaster like a tornado
  • Military combat
  • Assau...

PTSD symptoms

Words, sounds, or situations that remind you of trauma can trigger your symptoms. Symptom categories:

  • Intrusion: Flashbacks, where you relive the event. Clear, unpleasant memories or nightmares about the incident and intense distress when you think about the event.
  • Avoidance: Avoiding people, places, or situations that remind you of the event.
  • Arousal and reactivity: Trouble concentrating, easily startled, feeling of being on edge, irritability, moments of anger.
  • Cognition and mood: Negative thoughts, feelings of guilt, worry, blame, trouble remembering parts of the event, reduced interest in activities you enjoyed.

PTSD treatment

If you're diagnosed with PTSD, you will likely be prescribed therapy, medication, or both.

  • Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) or "talk therapy" helps you to process the traumatic event.
  • Exposure therapy lets you re-experience elements of the trauma in a safe environment. It desensitizes you to the event and lessens your symptoms.
  • Antidepressants, anti-anxiety drug**s, and sleep aids** may help relieve symptoms of depression and anxiety.

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The 'assumption of healthy normality'

There is an assumption that emotional pain and suffering is a deviation from a default happy baseline. However, it's incorrect. Psychological pain is everywhere. 

Resea...

Acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT)

The goal of ACT is not necessarily to reduce one's problematic thoughts and emotions. It is to help people effectively function while they are distressed and to promote more flexible and value-driven behaviors.
In other words, the primary goal is to promote 'valued living.'

Valued living

Valued living is going about your daily life in the service of values you find important. Engaging in these actions creates a sense of meaning and purpose.

The symptoms of psychological suffering are problematic when they are linked to behaviors that draw us away from valued living.

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