We’ve all heard of post-traumatic stress. But what about post-traumatic growth?
Have you ever gone through something incredibly difficult, and noticed that, on the other side, you were a different person, stronger in certain ways, more sure of yourself, more able to ask for support, softer, or more boundaried?
A concept from positive psychology, post-traumatic growth is one of my favorite aspects of being a therapist—I am able to witness and explore the incredible resiliency of people who have experienced trauma: people who, yes, experience pain and confusion, but who also find within their pain a doorway that opens them more to life and to their own innate strengths.
Trauma can often feel like it’s breaking us apart. It is important to honor the breaking and the pain. It is crucial to find support for post-traumatic stress. Without glossing over the difficulties of trauma, we can also appreciate that with the right conditions, human systems can come back together with a greater sense of cohesion, authenticity, and compassion than we had previously.
Below is a list of 26 indicators of post-traumatic growth.* See if you recognize yourself in any of the statements.
Post-Traumatic Growth Inventory
a. I have gained clarity around my priorities and what is important in life.
b. I appreciate the value of my own life.
c. I have developed new interests.
d. I feel more healthy self-reliance.
e. I am more open to spiritual realities.
f. I know I can count on people in times of trouble.
g. I established a new path for my life.
h. I have a greater sense of closeness with others.
i. I developed a willingness to express my emotions.
j. I know I can handle life’s difficulties; I have built resilience and grit.
k. I yearn to use my life well.
l. I developed a greater capacity for acceptance.
m. I am able to appreciate each day.
n. New opportunities are available, which wouldn’t have been otherwise.
o. I have compassion for others.
p. I put more effort into my relationships.
q. I’m more likely to try to change things that need changing.
r. I have a stronger sense of faith.
s. I discovered that I am stronger than I thought I was.
t. I learned a great deal about how wonderful people are.
u. I accept needing others.
v. I am more able to be with the unknown or ambiguous.
w. My heart feels more open.
x. I have lost some of my old rigidity.
y. I have developed a sense of bravery in looking at and being with the uncomfortable parts of myself, others, and the world.
z. I have a zeal to help others find healing and freedom.
I would love to hear about your experience with post-traumatic growth in the comments below. If you’d like support feeling into your journey with trauma, please reach out to me.
* The first 21 of these qualities are adapted from Tedeschi RG & Calhoun LG, The posttraumatic growth inventory: measuring the positive legacy of trauma. Journal of Traumatic Stress (1996; 9: 455-471).