Everyone has been in a place where they feel like everything is crumbling around them. You are subjected to traumatic events, and the consequences are so massive you feel like you’re never going to recover. There’s no worse feeling in this world than negative trauma.
Suffering from assault, abuse, hunger, or any other trauma can break even the strongest people. But humans are much stronger than they appear. Like a phoenix, victims will rise from the ashes more robust than ever. So, in which ways can trauma help us grow?
What Is Posttraumatic Growth?
In the 1990s, two psychologists embarked on a journey to discover if the truth lies behind the idea that you can grow after experiencing trauma. After months of research, Richard Tedeschi and Lawrence Calhoun identified a phenomenon they named posttraumatic growth (PTG).
They concluded that, following the healing process, victims experienced personal growth. The next step they took was to describe the five categories of development that occurred over time. Survivors of trauma were more likely to recognize and embrace new opportunities. They strengthened their relationships with the people who supported them during tough times.
Through the knowledge acquired from what they experienced, they gained a deeper appreciation of life. After seeing that they managed to live through the trauma, victims cultivated inner strength. Lastly, their understanding of spirituality deepened and evolved.
While this research showed trauma could lead to growth, it didn’t demonstrate that it always will. The only way survivors will achieve this growth is by going through the process of healing. So yes, it is true that you can grow through trauma and never recover. Still, PTG is a theory that can be used by victims and their therapists to facilitate the healing process.
If you are struggling with processing negative trauma, reach out to people and ask for help. Find support groups, go to therapy, and stay close to people who can take care of you. It will be a long process, but you will get through it. Take all the time you need to process everything, and remember, you don’t have to heal alone. You are allowed to lean on other people.
The Difference Between PTG And Resilience
It is important to note that PTG is different from resilience. Resilience refers to someone’s ability to push through and overcome difficult situations. PTG is what can happen to someone who experiences something so hostile that their core beliefs are challenged. It’s the result of the healing process experienced following a psychological hardship. Someone resilient won’t experience PTG exactly because their core beliefs weren’t challenged. While resilience is a quality, PTG is a long and challenging process.
In some cases, we can grow in ways that are not encapsulated by the PTG theory. But that growth is not substantial. While that doesn’t mean it is irrelevant, it means it is less likely to be noticeable. But for most people, these five categories describe everything they experienced and more.
5 Ways Negative Trauma Can Change Us And Help Us Grow
We can grow when we understand how to learn from our emotional traumas throughout life.
1. Negative Trauma Strengthens Interpersonal Relationships
In many cases, people don’t understand how certain valuable things are unless life puts things into perspective. Too often, we take people for granted, or, on the flip side, we trust the wrong people.
While no one should ever go through traumatic events, at least you can understand the people worth valuing. It has been shown that, after experiencing trauma, people start seeing the ones who stuck by them in a new light. When we go through difficult situations, we create deeper bonds with the people who stick by our side.
If we go through financial trouble, people who were close to us because of the money we had before will leave. But the ones who genuinely care will stick by us. Or, if we’re dealing with a disease, some people will choose to bail rather than give us the help we need.
At the moment, there’s nothing that can feel worse. Not only are you going through difficult times, but people are leaving you on top of that. And feeling like your soul was shattered to pieces is legitimate. After going through the healing process, you will understand that it is better to avoid people who don’t care. And you will feel stronger love for the ones who stayed.
Unfortunately, sometimes we go through negative trauma alone.
But even in that case, we create new bonds with the people who have been through the same trauma. For example, an alcoholic going to an AA meeting will make meaningful connections with the people they meet there.
Just remember, no matter how alone you feel, you can always find people who genuinely care. If you have no one, reach out to a support group. Being able to talk to someone who understands how you feel can be the best therapy. You will feel heard, get helpful advice, and become part of a group that will always have your back.
2. Trauma Makes Us Aware Of New Possibilities
Often, we have a narrow view of how life should be. We have strong opinions, but we don’t even know what core morals we have or how they were formed. Because of that, life can seem like a one-way street. There’s only so much we can do, just one way of doing things. But that couldn’t be further from the truth.
While no one should have to go through trauma, especially if they can broaden their horizons, difficult times are inevitable. That doesn’t change the fact that we can take on new perspectives after we heal is something we will benefit from. We might have thought that being in a romantic relationship at all times is vital. But then we encountered an abusive relationship. After getting out of that abusive relationship, we can finally realize that being happily single is possible. And that’s just one example.
Once we go through situations, we never thought we would be subjected to. Our principles are challenged. To heal, we will have to introspect and reflect. Through this process, we will get a better understanding of what we believe and why. This makes us more open-minded, which is an incentive to embrace and acknowledge more opportunities.
3. Negative Trauma Gives Us Newfound Appreciation Of Life
Victims of trauma can feel like the way they think will be their demise. In those moments, life can be so hard that people lose all hope. The harder we fall, the fewer things will convince us that life is worth living.
After healing, when we look back and remember how down we were, our current life will seem heavenly by comparison. While before the trauma, we might have never cared about the flowers blooming in the spring, now we might stop and marvel at their beauty. After hitting our lowest point, we finally realize that so many things we used to neglect are beautiful. Knowing how bad life can get, we will never waste the opportunity to make the most out of situations. We will find reasons to appreciate life much more than we were before.
4. Negative Trauma Shows Us How Strong We Are
Victims of trauma often feel like the weakest people alive. When we are at our worst, all we can think is, “How did I get here?”. We get disappointed, we blame ourselves for things that were out of our control. The more we get hurt, the more we lose trust in ourselves.
After we heal, we finally understand how strong we are. A few months prior, we thought this trauma would bring us down. But now, we have defeated it, and we emerged alive. There’s no better way to prove ourselves wrong. We become more confident than ever before. After going through all that, we are left better equipped to handle future challenges. And if we ever doubt ourselves again, we can never forget how much we’ve been through. That will give us the boost we need to overcome any hurdle we encounter.
Once we regain our confidence, we will be able to rebuild our life. Get back on track. Focus on your career again. Pick up the hobbies you had to let go of. Reconnect with people you lost touch with. Pick up the pieces of yourself off the floor, and put yourself back together in every sense of the word.
5. Negative Trauma Deepens Our Understanding Of Spirituality
Spirituality is a broad concept that generally refers to finding a connection with something bigger than yourself. For some, that might mean religion and a link to a deity. To others, that might be a connection to a higher purpose, like dedicating their life to a goal.
Once we go through trauma, we begin to understand just how small we are compared to the world, to the Universe even. This realization will make us view the idea of a purpose bigger than us differently. Many survivors chose to open NGOs or to stay otherwise involved in activism after healing. That is because they understand that some things are more significant than them. A survivor of sexual assault who advocates for women’s rights does that because they found a bigger purpose.
When we evolve our connection to spirituality, it gives us emotional support, meaning, and strength. The more we understand what our purpose is, the more we can understand and accept ourselves.
Final Thoughts On How Negative Trauma Can Change Us And Help Us Grow
If you’ve ever been the victim of trauma, remember that you are not alone. No one should ever have to go through that, but you are strong; you will get through it. No matter how hopeless the situation seems, there are always ways to heal. While you will never be the same again, that doesn’t mean you will always be broken.
Different doesn’t necessarily mean bad, and PTG demonstrates that. Ne you get the help you need to get through your trauma, you will go through a complex process of personal growth. You will rediscover yourself and bounce back with renowned forces. While you might lose some things on the way, you will find yourself again.
If you’re struggling with negative trauma now, know that there’s no shame in asking for help. You don’t have to do everything alone, so ask for help. Therapy, support groups, whatever you think will help, try it. Focus on yourself, and you will eventually heal.