Post-Traumatic Growth: Finding Meaning and Creativity in Adversity

Scott Barry Kaufman: Studies show that the majority of trauma survivors do not develop PTSD, and a large number even report growth from their experience. Richard Tedeschi and Lawrence Calhoun coined the term “posttraumatic growth” to capture this phenomenon, defining it as the positive psychological change that is experienced as a result of the struggle with highly challenging life circumstances. These seven areas of growth have been reported to spring from adversity:

  • Greater appreciation of life
  • Greater appreciation and strengthening of close relationships
  • Increased compassion and altruism
  • The identification of new possibilities or a purpose in life
  • Greater awareness and utilization of personal strengths
  • Enhanced spiritual development
  • Creative growth

To be sure, most people who experience posttraumatic growth would certainly prefer to have not had the trauma, and very few of these domains show more growth after trauma compared to encountering positive life experiences. Nevertheless, most people who experience posttraumatic growth are often surprised by the growth that does occur, which often comes unexpectedly, as the result of an attempt at making sense of an unfathomable event.

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