In our current times, many people are encountering or have faced adverse and tumultuous events in the recent past. The traditional relationship between encountering increased traumatic events and demonstration of psychological symptoms, distress or disorders is being challenged by the new research on Post Trauma Growth (PTG). Dr. Richard Tedeschi and Dr. Lawrence Calhoun conducted pioneering research on Post Trauma Growth (PTG). PTG is the science of how people, who face adversity and experience psychological struggle, can demonstrate positive growth. I am very excited to share with readers my interview with Dr. Richard Tedeschi.. Dr. Tedeschi is a professor emeritus of the department of psychological sciences at University of North Carolina at Charlotte. He is Distinguished Chair of the Boulder Crest Institute for Posttraumatic Growth. He is a prolific author of books and empirically based research articles on PTG. He has vast experience as a clinician and developed programs based on his research findings on posttraumatic growth principles to help combat veterans and first responders.
Before sharing his interview, I think that it is important to note a few points that are published on the PTG website. People have varying psychological reactions to traumatic events based on their unique risk and protective or resiliency factors. Trauma leads to distress in people and people who experience PTG also suffer. Trauma is never good. PTG is not universal.
Dr. Tedeschi (2020) outlines the components associated with PTG in his article in the Harvard Business Review . Some of the components which facilitate PTG, include, people needing to be educated about trauma as their core belief systems are shattered and they experience high levels of distress in response to traumatic events. Some people refer to traumatic events as “groundlessness”, as if, the carpet was pulled out from under them after encountering adversity. PTG may be attained as people learn to manage painful emotions, find safe places to disclose what happened, and create a narrative of pre-trauma life, nature of traumatic event and post trauma life. The benefits of PTG include discovering personal strength that people were not aware of in pre-trauma life, closer interpersonal relationships, increase in empathy for the suffering of others, greater appreciation of life and spiritual growth. In different religious and spiritual traditions, suffering had been linked with spiritual growth, such as the “dark night of the soul” as part of spiritual growth.
This post includes my interview with Dr. Tedeschi. I am very honored to have met him for the interview. I am very grateful for his generosity in sharing his wisdom and research expertise in PTG. I hope readers find the phenomenon PTG helpful and powerful as it highlights the resiliency in the human condition. The link for the interview is below.
In conclusion, I will share some of my thoughts on PTG based on my work, as a clinical psychologist, with different people. PTG manifests differently for people. PTG can co-exist with suffering. The development of the person’s narrative from pre-trauma life, trauma incident and post trauma life may include processing the multifaceted and raw emotions associated with the wounding process and reaching a level of acceptance of current reality. There is sometimes a paradigm shift when people understand how trauma impacted them and there is a realization at a fundamental level that some vital aspect of their thought and behavior patterns stemmed from past traumatic events which they encountered. Once people understand how traumatic events impacted them, they are more likely to challenge their distorted self images as “bad” human beings to accept their sense of being wounded. This sometimes leads to an increase in the practice of self-compassion. People may experience increased awareness of “why” they are engaging in certain patterns of behavior rather than unconsciously enacting old patterns of behavior. People’s increased awareness facilitates enhanced capacity to change maladaptive behavior patterns. There is less comparison of reality with a previous vision of life. In post trauma life, people often report discovering new meaning and purpose in life. In trauma work, it is often said that people cannot change the past, but, they can change their reactions or relationship to the past events. People may reprioritize their values and relationships. In PTG, people sometimes talk about making peace with the events of the past. I love Dorothy Hunt’s poem, “Peace is this moment without judgment”. I think that this peace of being fully immersed in the moment with radical acceptance of reality and no judgement is a crucial part of PTG.
PLEASE NOTE THAT THIS IS NOT A THERAPY SITE. PLEASE CONTACT MEDICAL OR MENTAL HEALTH PROFESSIONALS, AS NEEDED.