How to grow past your Trauma – A Guide to Post Traumatic Growth

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is a mental health disorder that occurs in people who have experienced a stunning, terrifying, or deadly event. It is normal to experience fear both during and after a distressing event. In order to defend against or avoid danger, fear causes several split-second changes in the body. A typical response designed to protect a person from harm is the “fight-or-flight” response.

The fight or flight response is a physiological response that occurs automatically in response to a stressful or frightful experience. Threat perception engages the sympathetic nervous system, causing an acute stress reaction that primes the body for either fighting or running away. These reactions are evolutionary adaptations that improve survival chances in dangerous circumstances.

Almost everyone reacts differently to trauma, although the majority of people naturally overcome the initial symptoms. Those who still have issues may be given a PTSD diagnosis. Even when there is no threat, PTSD sufferers may experience worry or fear.

Worksheet to asses symptoms of PTSD

It is important to keep in mind that not everyone who experiences a traumatic event develops PTSD. In actuality, the majority of people won’t get the condition. Whether someone will experience PTSD depends on a variety of factors. An individual is more prone to experience PTSD if certain Risk Factors (like no social support) exist. Resilient Factors (like venting out to friends) are the elements that can lower the risk of the condition.

Worksheet to assess risk & resilience factors

Even though trauma can trigger a horrifying and overwhelming reaction, it can also occasionally act as a catalyst for constructive transformation. In the ideal scenarios, it might even encourage development, toughness, and resilience. When you are capable of overcoming trauma and turning hardship to your advantage, post-traumatic growth takes place.

Worksheet to assess triggers of trauma and PTSD

POST-TRAUMATIC GROWTH

Post-Traumatic Growth refers to the positive psychological shift that some people go through following a crisis or traumatic incident. Deep sorrow is not discounted by post-traumatic growth, which instead holds that adversity can unwittingly lead to changes in how one view themselves, other people, and the wider world. In actuality, post-traumatic stress disorder and post-traumatic growth can coexist.

According to Dr. Marianne Trent, a clinical psychologist and the director of the company ‘Good Thinking Psychological Services’, “Post-Traumatic Growth (PTG) is when someone who has been affected by PTSD, and finds a way to take new meaning from their experiences to live their lives in a different way than before the trauma.”

According to studies, after a traumatic episode, about half of trauma survivors experience post-traumatic growth. Now let’s have a look at the elements which lead to post-traumatic growth 

THE ELEMENTS OF GROWTH 

1. Education

One must first educate themselves about post-traumatic growth in order to make the transition from trauma to growth. When our presumptions are refuted, it is perplexing and unsettling and frequently results in worried, thoughts: Why did this happen? Who is in charge? Now, what should I do? We are compelled to reconsider who we are, who we surround ourselves with, where we live, and what our future holds. It may cause extreme discomfort. But as evidenced by the study, it can also bring about change that will be for the better. Learning and comprehending that truth must be our first priority.

I have a friend who lost her mother in the middle of the pandemic. For a while, she was in complete shock, but eventually, she realized that her new situation would force her to reconsider who she was: She often sat and revaluated by saying things like – “Now I have to figure out what is next in this life. ‘I know I have to do this, but a part of me doesn’t want to.” It was when she made the decision to seek therapy in order to recover from it, and that was the first step in her transformation into a person who had more sympathy for herself and could accept limitations.

2. Emotional regulation.

To do any learning, one must be in the right frame of mind. That starts with managing negative emotions such as anxiety, guilt, and anger, which can be done by shifting the kind of thinking that leads to those feelings. Instead of concentrating on losses, failures, uncertainties, and worst-case scenarios, try to remember successes, take into account best-case scenarios, consider your own or your organization’s resources and preparation, and consider what you can reasonably accomplish both individually and collectively.

Talking about a dining chain CEO, After his board removed him from the position, the creator of one restaurant company learned that emotional control was essential. The news came as a complete shock, and at first, he was enraged, he said. But he did so after being advised by his investor father to “get [his] head around being supportive.” He began considering how he might maintain his composure and professionalism while still helping the company move forward, instead of dwelling on his rage and the sense that he had been betrayed. He ultimately came back to run the business.

By paying attention to your emotions as they arise, you may control them directly. Exercise and meditative techniques like breathing exercises are also beneficial. Use these methods yourself and spread the word about them to assist others. Recognize that the current situation is still difficult and unpleasant, but maintain your calm. Additionally, promote more frequent conversation to help people feel less alone and better understand their shared emotional resilience.

3. Disclosure

This stage of the process is when you discuss what has happened and is happening, including any short- and long-term implications as well as personal and professional, individual and organizational, small- and broad-scale, immediate, and ongoing effects. By expressing these ideas, we are able to make sense of the trauma and transform negative thoughts into more useful observations.

Asking numerous questions while listening to someone describe their experience of the crisis may come across as an unwanted inquiry motivated more by curiosity than by genuine concern. It is best to concentrate on the impact and the main issues being raised by your counterpart.

4. Narrative development

To accept the chapters that have already been written and visualize creating the upcoming ones in a meaningful way, the next step is to create an authentic narrative about the trauma and our life after it. Your story—and the stories of the people you’re helping—can and should involve a trying past that ultimately leads to a happier present.

Take the case of a nonprofit CEO who had been dismissed go from two prior jobs due to sexual harassment claims. He and his wife were involved in a terrible crash one night while driving on the expressway. They crashed into a stopped car that had no lights on. His wife suffered just minor wounds, but he spent a month unconscious and required physiotherapy to walk and speak once more. His new narrative went something like this: “Many would believe that it was this accident that endangered my life. However, I was already in terrible danger. I was hurting people, destroying my job, and moving towards a life without my wife and kids. I had to pause due to the accident, which gave me time for introspection and showed me what love is.

Narrative development is very crucial in order to understand the true meaning of life and learn from the experiences of the past to make you a better human being for the future.

 5. Service

People recover more quickly from trauma if they find work that helps others—either those who are close to them, members of their community, or those who have been through comparable experiences. My acquaintance who lost a child established a nonprofit organization to assist bereaved families in finding others who could relate to their suffering. As a result of the leadership of those who have experienced comparable losses and the desire to impart the strength they have gained, the organization is flourishing forty years later.

Ken Falke, who spent more than 20 years as a bomb-disposal specialist in the U.S. Navy, is yet another outstanding example of service. He was motivated to aid others in healing after witnessing the effects of war personally. Beginning with paying hospitalized combat veterans a visit, he and his wife Julia thought that this wasn’t enough. As a result, they established the company where I am currently employed, the Boulder Crest Institute, whose Retreat for Military and Veteran Wellness programs are based on the posttraumatic development model.

Of course, you don’t have to establish a foundation or a nonprofit organization to be helpful. Growth can result from concentrating on how you can help alleviate the ongoing crisis, whether by providing content or sewing masks, stocking shelves or retraining teammates, supporting small businesses, or acquiescing to a temporary wage cut. Simply expressing thanks and exhibiting compassion and understanding towards others are also acceptable.

POST-TRAUMATIC GROWTH IN THERAPY

Taking therapy is also highly recommended for Post Traumatic Growth after PTSD.

Access to efficient, scientifically supported trauma treatments “may be life-changing,” according to Trent. In terms of improved functioning and less traumatic symptoms, “the effects of post-treatment can be like night and day for people.”

Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR)

The interactive psychotherapy technique known as eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) is used to reduce psychological distress. 

The technique is based on the idea that when painful and traumatic memories aren’t fully processed resulted in post-traumatic stress disorder. You then relive those unprocessed memories when certain sights, sounds, words, or odors trigger them.  The mental distress and other symptoms associated with post-traumatic stress disorder are brought on by this reliving (PTSD).

A tiny 2018 study emphasized the advantages of EMDR for PTSD-afflicted Syrian refugees for PTSD-afflicted refugees. Over 61% of the 18 participants who had EMDR as part of a group therapy intervention subsequently no longer met the requirements for a PTSD diagnosis. People who had EMDR also reported having fewer depressive symptoms.

Compassion-Focused Therapy (CFT)

Compassion-focused therapy (CFT) encourages patients to have compassion for both themselves and others in order to aid in the promotion of mental and emotional healing. CMT (Compassionate Mind Training) refers to the common methods for assisting people in feeling compassion and fostering various aspects of compassion for oneself and others. Compassionate mind training is the main therapeutic method used in CFT (CMT). Through the use of specialized training and supervised exercises created to aid people in further developing non-judging and non-condemning qualities, CMT seeks to promote compassionate motivation, sympathy, sensitivity, and suffering tolerance.

Trauma-Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (TF-CBT)

An evidence-based treatment approach called trauma-focused cognitive behavioral therapy (TF-CBT) aims to help kids, teens, and their families get over the effects of a traumatic experience. 

Therapists trained in TF-CBT are frequently able to assist children experiencing the emotional long-term consequences of trauma address and resolving these effects. This evidence-based approach has been demonstrated to be helpful for treatment after numerous traumas or a single traumatic incident.

In TF-CBT, humanistic, cognitive behavioral, and familial techniques are combined with interventions designed specifically to suit the needs of children and adolescents facing emotional and psychological challenges as a result of a trauma. Since more than 80% of traumatized children make progress within this time, this treatment is usually only given for a maximum of 16 sessions.

BENEFITS

Any improvement in preventing trauma, PTSD, and co-occurring mental health conditions including substance addiction and depression is likely to be helpful because they can all have a significant negative impact on wellbeing. Post-traumatic growth is the only way to enhance one’s physical, psychological, and emotional well-being after trauma.

  • Personal strength

People’s resilience in the face of trauma frequently astounds them. They are now better prepared to handle difficulties in the future. That also holds true for groups and businesses. After going through such challenges, groups frequently have a better understanding of their overall knowledge, abilities, resiliency, and growth potential.

  • New possibilities

We must adapt and innovate when new realities make it impossible to resume previous roles, routines, and approaches. To demonstrate to their followers that change should be welcomed rather than feared, leaders must have the bravery and zeal to test these new approaches.

  • Improved relationships

These frequently result from the urge to offer and receive assistance during difficult times. Trauma can encourage the development of new bonds and increase gratitude for existing ones. Sharing a problem together strengthens relationships.

  • Appreciation for life

We frequently get better at appreciating what we still have but may have previously missed when we are faced with dread and loss. Leaders can set an example for others by valuing the fundamentals of living and working. “We are a fantastic team. Our work is valued by our clients. For the benefit of everyone who still works there, we have maintained the company. Our company works toward a more noble goal”. Even a simple compliment like “that coffee tastes excellent this morning” counts.

This is the result of thought on the “great questions” that are frequently disregarded in daily life. As a result of the challenges to our fundamental beliefs that trauma presents, many people are compelled to study philosophy or theology on their own to create a life that is worthwhile. Are we conducting our business ethically? is an existential question that organizations may also face. Do we put our beliefs into practice? Is another question for you to think about for spiritual growth 

It is extremely difficult to evolve in the midst of the trauma, but the reflection in its aftermath can provide a foundation for growth. Trauma survivors who want to cultivate growth can strive to process the experience once they distance themselves from it. Survivors can examine how their outlook has changed if they have a newfound appreciation for life, whether their relationships have become closer, or whether they have developed spirituality as a result of the event. Practitioners should be careful to meet clients where they are mentally and refrain from underestimating their pain or offering early answers. However, by assisting clients in reflecting on learnings from their experience, such as realizing they were stronger than they thought they were or having rearranged their priorities in life, the ideas of post-traumatic growth can be introduced gradually and subtly.

Want to learn more about PTSD Treatment Plans? Consider our online course with certification.

REFERENCES

https://hbr.org/2020/07/growth-after-trauma

https://www.healthline.com/health/mental-health/ptsd-causes#treatment

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