Trauma can be incredibly difficult to live with and heal from. This said, many people do manage to overcome their past experiences and grow as a result. This phenomenon is called post traumatic growth (PTG). It is the “positive psychological change some individuals experience following a life crisis or traumatic event” (Psychology Today). PTG grew out of the field of Positive Psychology, pioneered by Richard Tedeschi and Lawrence Calhoun in the 1990’s.
Challenging Life Situations Can Yield Benefits
Estimates as to the numbers of people who experience a positive shift following adverse experiences vary from half to two thirds. This means that for many, the stress of the turmoil, once it starts to settle, can lead to beneficial, and even transformational, experiences. This is often a result of having to dig deep into resources we never knew we had in order to deal with the challenges we are faced with, and the consequences that follow. These include facing life threatening illnesses, loss of loved ones, assaults, natural disasters and being in war zones.
“Our predecessors overcame many troubles and much suffering, but each time got back up stronger than before.” Shinzo Abe, ex-President of Japan
Areas of Growth
These are the common areas of growth reported by numerous survivors of adverse events:
- Greater appreciation for life
- Deeper connection with self and others
- Better relationships with others
- Discovering new things about oneself, such as strength of character
- Seeing new possibilities and even a new purpose in life
- Increase in compassion and desire to help others
- Spiritual connection, which in a secular sense can mean feelings of peace
From Surviving to Thriving
Trauma can be like an earthquake, forever changing the landscapes of our minds and bodies by shattering our world view and core beliefs. We will not be the same as before, but we can learn to not only survive, but also thrive. When we can’t change the past we often have to change ourselves in order to be able to deal with it.
This said, it is helpful to be realistic. The journey from the depths of anxiety and despair to thriving can be a long and difficult one. It is initially important not to focus too much on the possibility of growth as it may seem a far off and unattainable goal. Instead, it works well to build on existing resources, add new ones and process the pain and suffering. The healing and growth will often happen spontaneously and unexpectedly of their own accord as part of the process.
“Childhood trauma can lead to an adulthood spent in survival mode, afraid to plant roots, to plan for the future, to trust, and to let joy in. It’s a blessing to shift from surviving to thriving. It’s not simple, but there is more than survival” Unknown.
How Can Somatic Therapies like Bodywork Assist in the Process of Growth?
According to Scientific American, “A key factor that allows us to turn adversity into advantage is the extent to which we fully explore our thoughts and feelings surrounding the event.”
In therapy, there can be a fine line between helping to make things better for clients and actually making symptoms worse through allowing the amount of emotional expression, or abreaction. It is therefore important to work in a trauma-informed way. On the one hand, this means not blocking out or ignoring uncomfortable feelings or sensations. If we do that, we are unlikely to experience the benefits of PTG.
On the other, it means not focusing on any discomfort for too long at a time. This is why I help clients to find ways to be able to ground themselves, and work using the principle of titration – working with a small bit of discomfort at a time, before pendulating back to feeling good. This way of working enables a safer and more effective way of exploring and integrating any difficult sensations.
Learning to stay present with difficult thoughts, feelings and sensations is not an overnight fix and can take weeks, months or even years. Trauma is often complex to work with, and the best way is by going slowly. Read more about learning to self-regulate.
I offer sessions to individuals and couples in Teesside (TS12) and London (SE16). For more information:
“Tatiana is totally welcoming and professional. She explains everything before the treatment and invites questions. The space is quiet and has such a beautiful atmosphere. I highly recommend Tatiana as a tantric massage practitioner.” Andrew