Life After Trauma: The 5 Key Areas of Growth

If you’ve experienced trauma, I’m sure you know too much about the negative impact it can have. But –have you thought about growth? It’s something not talked about a lot, but it happens too!

The research over the past 40 years has focused a lot of attention on a wide range of negative outcomes: anxiety, panic attacks, depression, post-traumatic stress, relationship problems, low self-esteem, as well as many other challenges.

If you’re dealing with one or more of these issues, reducing the impact of these problems may seem like the best you can hope for. But what we are discovering is that recovery is also about something that hasn’t been looked at enough.

And we as therapists are starting to understand how important this is to your healing. It’s about the growth that happens after trauma.

To be honest, when I was dealing with my own recovery from ptsd and depression, I wouldn’t have believed that anything positive could come from what I went through. I was broken. I only wanted the pain and “craziness” of ptsd to go away.

And most of our training as therapists focuses the negative symptoms impacting your life and how to reduce these.  That’s important, but it’s not the whole picture. While you were negatively impacted by trauma you’ve also made it through that ordeal and continue to go on.

How are you able to do that? What strengths, internal resources, deepening understanding and wisdom has arisen in you?

How does this growth happen? I was abused in my early teen years quite severely. Before the trauma, I was a shy, easily intimidated. One part of my growth was finding my voice–and courage to be heard.

The healing process is long and slow, but it changes us. Once self-conscious and full of shame, today I can talk to anyone and I even enjoy public speaking.

This is important to your recovery because healing isn’t only about reducing negative symptoms. It’s about—and I would say more importantly—discovering how you are transformed through surviving and healing work into something more than you were before.

What you’ve been through was horrible. Making your way through it the way you have—you know how hard that it was, and how hard is. Honestly, how did you do that? How did you keep going?

So, consider what strengths and growth has happened in you to keep you going, and to keep you moving on. And remember that the process is gradual and evolves and strengthens over time.

Look at this list below and see if you can notice any of areas of growth in yourself.

1-You Develop Greater Personal Strength.
Coming to terms with trauma and the emotional and psychological rollercoaster forces you to experience, and become familiar with a wide range of emotions and mental states. You are faced with an overwhelming and incomprehensible situation, like trying to not get blown away in a tornado, holding on requires great strength. And you are able to continue with your life–like someone who has no choice but to climb the steepest mountain with the a heavy load on your back. Just going on from day-to-day strengthens the muscles of the climber in the same way that going on day-to-day strengthens you internally.

2-You See Greater Possibilities for Yourself.
The healing process allows you to see things differently. Trauma gives a restricted view out of psychological necessity. You are more focused on coping and just getting by. As you heal, you realize that you’re not limited to “just getting by.” You discover a greater capacity inside you. “If I made it through this (trauma), how hard is that (new date, job, move) going to be?” Your perspective broadens, you see more possibilities for yourself. You develop a greater awareness, understanding and appreciation of a wider range of experience that is open to you.

3-People Become More Important to You.
Two common consequences of trauma is a sense of intense vulnerability and being cut-off and aloneness from the world. More than anything is the need for human connection, empathy and support. This experience is deeply curative. The experience also opens our awareness to more profound qualities of connection and the power of relationships, to bring relief from distress, provide comfort, and create joy. We develop a deeper appreciation for the people in our lives. Those experiences and that knowledge strengths your ability to open up and connect with others more deeply.

4-You Gain A Richer Perspective on Life.
Trauma deprives you of many things, in so many ways. It can feel like life itself retreated, shrunk somehow. In it’s place are days dominated by distress and confusion. Fun and pleasure have disappeared. Through the healing, when the distress is absent can feel like to relief of a parched mouth drinking water. It feels great. Discovering the ability to laugh again—is like awakening to the possibilities of joy. It’s more intense, more precious. The perspective on what matters in life sharpens and widens.

5-There is Spiritual Change
Most of us take religious or philosophical views for granted, unquestioned or unexamined. Trauma challenges those views and beliefs about safety, trust, love, and justice. The view of the world can change from a safe place to dangerous. People can seem more threatening than good. You’re left wondering ‘what do I believe?’ This process drives you to search for what makes sense to you. In that searching you discover what is more true and meaningful to you

In my following blog posts I’ll discuss each of the Key Areas of Growth individually, exploring how they develop after trauma.

If you have experienced trauma or ptsd and are interested in exploring treatment that looks not only reducing symptoms, but at increasing areas of growth contact me today. I’m happy to speak with you about how I may be able to help.

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