Post Traumatic Growth

soldier with his head in his hands

My favorite medical doctor posted on social media about a condition I never heard before: post traumatic growth (PTG).  The doctor claimed that a small percentage of people experience PTG.  Basically, with PTG, people come out of trauma happier, more spiritual, and more appreciative of life.  PTG is rooted in the same causes as post-traumatic stress disorder, but with beneficial outcomes.

I have insight into post traumatic growth.  And I’d like to share a bit of it with you.

I underwent PTG over an event I don’t wish to disclose.  The trauma of the event rocked my core.  But I came out of it happier, more successful, more spiritual.  I did so by refusing to feel anything but unconditional love toward my antagonists.

And, even though I entered a new shaky normal after the trauma, I grew happier–better—in every way imaginable.

Yesterday, after reading the medical doctor’s post on PTG, I commented that, to truly achieve PTG, we must manifest unconditional love toward our aggressors.  Further to this, in cases of natural trauma, we must feel nothing but love for mother nature.  In the case of self-inflicted trauma, we must feel nothing but love for our highest selves.  At least, that’s how I view PTG.

I then explored PTG further within the literature.  I was excited to see that PTG requires us to control our thoughts.  To do so, we need to avoid any negative thoughts like worry or anger.  Instead, we need to think about positive outcomes, best-case scenarios, power to manage crisis, and past successes, according to The Harvard Business Review.

But I think controlling our minds also requires virtuous thoughts, such as empathy and appreciation.  Controlling our minds, in my opinion, requires exclusive focus on joyful, happy thoughts.  Thus, to achieve PTG after trauma, snuff out all anger, jealousy, resentment, tension, judgment, and blame, even if these states seem incredibly justified.  Nothing should justify us losing our happiness.  Not war.  Not murder.  Not rape.  Not death.

When we have PTG from a worst-case scenario, I know, from experience, we may no longer fear the trauma recurring.  The first step to this state of PTG, in my opinion, is unconditional love.

Any trauma can be turned into a cataclysmic ground for growth.  Anything that makes us sad or angry holds the opportunity to make us happy or peaceful.  Anything that gives us nightmares can bring us joy.

PTG requires we surrender all our baggage for love.  In the end, we gain and never lose.  A present-day saint, in my view, said something like, “It’s harder to do the right thing, but when we do the right thing, we gain ten times the reward.”

[Ed note: This piece was authored by Marie Well]