Post-Traumatic Growth, PTG, is all about going through something harrowing, but instead of it flattening you, it can make you bounce back stronger, have greater meaning, and make you feel more alive. Sound good?
Though this term is not as widely known, many people have heard of PTSD, post-traumatic stress disorder, which can start when people witness sudden life threatening events: the shocking death of someone you love, a violent personal assault, a mass shooting, being at war. Results of this sudden attack on the psyche often include flashbacks, emotional numbness, and feeling jumpy, easily triggered, or isolated. A lot of people are feeling these things now right. But what about Post-Traumatic Growth?
Post-Traumatic Growth, PTG, works this way: It has stages. First, people are consumed by the pain. “Why did this have to happen? It’s too much.” There’s an urge to wallow, obsess, avoid, or numb the pain. More Netflix, more drinking, more fighting. It’s easy to get stuck there, especially without someone to talk to, and many do. But then there is another possibility. The term, Post-Traumatic Growth, was coined when 2 psychologists, Richard Tedeschi and Lawrence Calhoun, working with families who had lost children, noticed something surprising.
They discovered not only how much the parents helped each other, but how in the middle of their own grief, instead of wallowing in despair, they were moved to do something to help others from having to face the same tragedy. They wanted to work to change the circumstances that had led to their own child’s death. They had a focus, a cause, a reason for connecting with others that was bigger than their own suffering.
What made this remarkable is that they didn’t just experience resilience through bouncing back to their former base line level. With post-traumatic growth, these people change as a result of their unthinkable ordeal, but it is a change for the better. They become stronger, more determined, and more aware that their life has a new meaning. Even in the midst of their pain, they’re able to ask: ‘Given where I am in my life, how can I build the best future possible?’ One example is Mothers Against Drink Driving (think about it – you’ve lost a child, unbelievable pain)
I want to invite you to use these same principles now. In the coming days and weeks, we will be seeing a lot of fear-based thinking coming up, a lot of negativity. Expect it, but don’t get tethered by it. There are a huge amount of fear paradigms that are vying for our attention, whether it’s racism, classism, medical fears – people are dying, financial uncertainty, educational stresses, relationships anxiety, and of course what the future will bring.
In times of uncertainty when there are so many uncertainties, you have to go deep and reconnect with what is true and timeless and peaceful inside of you, like the feeling you have in nature, in meditation, and when you connect with something greater. When you cannot find solace in the outside world, you tap into the reservoir of knowing that is within you.
What do you tell yourself to get back to yourself? What mantra, what quote, what words of encouragement help you move forward?
I love the quote by Leonard Cohen – “Everything has cracks in it. That’s how the light enters.” There are a lot of cracks, these days, which means we have the potential for a lot of light to enter. There is a major shift underway – and on some level, we know it. Do not allow yourself to get hooked by the fear pictures. If you resonate with unity, stand for it. If you are about finding the good in people, then look beyond this circus, stay with your intention, and hold strong to your vision of a better world. People, now more than ever we have to take an inner stand on the world that we want. And if we don’t see it in our leadership, it has to come from us.
This not to say don’t be a voice, - feel what you feel – if it’s anger, frustration, anxiety, sadness – this is all part of the times we live in. Speak your truth by all means, but try, and I know it’s not easy, to come from, love and understanding. Keep up your confidence that nature always recalibrates, and focus on the DIRECTION you want to see humanity go. Try to come from a higher place energetically, like "I’m not going to get sucked into this whirlpool," AND at the same time, if you’re in the U.S., take action - vote and encourage others to do so too.
Have your feet on the ground, your spirit in what you stand for, and try not to be swept up in the whirlwind of negativity. Keep your focus on the qualities you want to see. Hold your truth, feel what you feel, but come back to an open heart. So this is an invitation to look beyond the fear look, and beyond the chaos. Hold to your vision of something better and keep going in that direction.
Your energy is needed to be a flashlight in the storm. You can also send that energy to the magnetic grid to help turn on the lights in the house, so to speak. Each person counts. Be steadfast in being a stance for a better world. No matter what feelings come up, come back to that vision, that intention. This is action on every level. And then you become the flashlight for others too. Imagine a huge group of people holding this space – that’s the invitation.
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