What is Post Traumatic Growth? How Can a Strong Support System Help?

I know about Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, but recently I learned about Posttraumatic Growth.   Shawn Achor in his Book The Happiness Advantage explains Posttraumatic Growth or Adversarial Growth is the positive growth that can occur after a traumatic experience.

In no way to I mean to minimize the effects of trauma.  Horrific things happen to children and adults whether it is an illness, abuse, accident, or in combat.  No one wants to have cancer, be injured or in a car accident.

Not everyone will experience Posttraumatic Growth.  It depends in part on their support system, which may only be one caring, loving person who is always there for the child. It maybe a parent, grandparent, relative or adult family friend.

Children who did not have a support system and had to face life alone may see even small events as traumatic.  For instance, a two-year-old that wakes up and repeatedly finds himself abandoned and has to meet his own needs by himself is easily overwhelmed as a child and adult.  He learns early that he is incapable of dealing with distressing events.

Children who grow up with nurturing parents and secure attachments may not even view the event as traumatic; rather it is another challenge to overcome.

But when parents feel overwhelmed and can’t provide secure support, children tend to see even difficult events as traumatic.

For example unemployment, most families may face a period where one or both parents lose their jobs.  In families that see this as an opportunity to search for a better job, to learn new skills, and to pull together, unemployment will be a challenge to overcome and children will more likely adopt their parents’ behavior, “We will work through this and thrive.” 

In contrast, families that are paralyzed by it and doubt they will survive are more likely to flounder.  In the future when the children experience similar events they may see them as traumatic as well. 

For those who experience trauma, Achor lists some of the benefits that can come from it: increased spirituality, compassion, openness and an over all greater appreciation for relationships.  He outlines, “the strategies that most often lead to Adversarial Growth include positive reinterpretation of the situation or event, optimism, acceptance, and coping mechanisms that include focusing on the problem head-on (rather than trying to avoid or deny it).” 

Many of these strategies are developed in a nurturing family support systems that displayed a “We will thrive attitude.”

If you did not grow up deep emotional attachments, develop supporting, caring friendships. Secure connections make a difference no matter how you are.

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