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Post Traumatic Growth

I talk a lot about this during sessions with clients as I feel it's extremely important. So, what is PTG? While we are all familiar with PTS (Post Traumatic Stress), PTG was first developed in the mid-1990's by psychologists Richard Tedeschi, PhD, and Lawrence Calhoun, PhD.

The idea was that people could actually become better humans after emerging from trauma and struggle. Although, when you're in the thick of it, it seems that this concept is impossible and almost sacrilegious in nature, when one is ready, it's a valuable piece of information: that you can come out of the storm better than before you found yourself engulfed within it.

Without even knowing it, I've been experiencing PTG for most of my life. To put this into perspective, trauma has been my goto buddy since early childhood. I developed all sorts of interesting coping mechanisms during this time but many of them didn't make me a particularly nice kid. As I grew into adolescence and then young adulthood, I quickly realized that I didn't like myself very much and that my actions weren't honouring my greatest and highest good. While there are many reasons for this (coping strategies to protect myself) it wasn't until my late 30's that I realized that I had to change my behavior in order to better understand how I could become the person that I'd always envisioned myself to be.

Although being a child of an alcoholic (and all of the complications that go along with that - think child abuse) are the reasons I didn't make the best choices, each time I experienced a little more trauma as a young adult (first in the form of spousal abuse and later being engaged to a sociopath) I acquired practice making 'better' choices as I walked away from these destructive relationships. Yet, I had a long way to go.

With each experience, I became stronger and more aligned with my higher self. The tipping point was Brian's suicide. I had to evolve to understand the difference between sympathy and empathy. To say that this was a hard lesson to learn is like saying setting your hair on fire is going to hurt a little. I learned the true meaning of compassion and loving another human unconditionally.

This was by far the biggest post traumatic growth I'd ever experienced. It was and is life changing. Had any of the many counsellors I went to, bothered to mention this was possible, it would have given me some 'hope' of what life could look like on the other side of the firestorm I was walking through. Now, not everyone experiences PTG but a high percentage do. I get that you have to pick your moment to talk about it to a client - because if they're not can do more harm than good.

That said, even the possibility of it would have helped me cope with the excruciating grief I was living in. As I tenderly bring it up to my own clients, I see them giving this information some intense thought and consideration. Most of them has said something to the effect of: "Yes, I can see this happening to me when I'm ready."

I ask them questions like: "What would the new and improved you look like?"

I would ask this same question to 'you' reader...if you could imagine a better self born out of your deepest pain, what would that look like? What and who do you see yourself becoming?

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