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  • Writer's pictureDayna Sharp, LCSW

Upside Down: Post Traumatic Growth

Some people see "Post Traumatic Growth" as an "Upside" to trauma. But this is upside down! There are no advantages to trauma. Some people shine after a trauma because, like us all, they were always meant to shine and they received the social-emotional support they needed.

”Post Traumatic Growth” is a newer concept intended to embody the experience of deep personal change, benefit and growth after and as a direct result of past trauma and adversity. It is certainly true that often people who have experienced trauma turn their experiences upside down—focusing their energy on personal or social change. We saw this recently in the Parkside shooting survivors, the #MeToo voices, and the Black Loves Matter movement.

The Positives of Post Traumatic Growth

The development of this concept has been welcomed by many simply because it is a step toward acknowledging and focusing on the strength and resilience of those of us who have experienced adversity and trauma. It is a paradigm shift, given that much time and space has focused on understanding vulnerabilities, risks, symptomology and psychopathology related to trauma. So it’s great to have a more balanced perspective available. Nevertheless, there’s something troubling about the this particular concept...let’s see what you think.

The Trouble with Post Traumatic Growth

First, there is a significant difference between “adversity” and “trauma”. We all face adversity to some extent and adversity in moderation can indeed make us stronger. When we can manage, cope with and overcome adversity, we gain a sense of mastery and empowerment. Trauma, on the other hand, is our body and minds reaction to something terrifying that happens. Our central nervous system simply can not cope with what is happening, becomes overwhelmed and is re-organized for survival. Trauma can also change our most fundamental beliefs about ourselves (we are unlovable, wrong, disgusting etc) and others (people aren’t safe). Trauma, by definition, isn’t something we can cope with, and does not leave us with a healthier sense of self, mastery or empowerment.

Another Perspective

What if we see people who have gone through trauma doing amazing things because they have always had Amazing qualities (like most of us), not because of trauma? What if some people have more “resilience” because they have the necessary social support to encourage them? My point here is that it’s not the trauma that causes people to grow...instead it’s already who we are—who we’ve always been—What will always be inside of us that is growing as it always would have, albeit possibly in a different direction. Maybe it has much more to do with the relationships that support us—through trauma and after trauma—that allow us to take what we’ve always had and grow far beyond what we’d ever imagined in spite of the trauma.

In short, I won’t give credit to shooters, abusers or even to experiences of abuse, neglect, emotional or physical violence for the amazing human capacity for resilience and growth. For peoples courage in the face of trauma and the disillusionment that often comes with it.

At Creating Space Counseling and Wellness, you will not hear that your trauma made you are who you are today, as though you should be grateful for it. Healing is not about reframing trauma in order to better live with It. Instead it’s about validating the harm that was done and reconnecting with the amazing gifts that have been inside of you the whole time—perhaps unseen or temporarily lost. Healing is about creating a safe space —a dependable therapeutic relationship— that will support your growth beyond your imagination, or at least beyond the trauma-related fears that are holding you back.

Call today to schedule your first appointment!



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