Hardship or trauma is a fact of life, however, it does not have to be a life sentence. It is through problems and failures, weakness and neediness that you learn to draw upon your hidden inner resources. The paradox of trauma is that it has both the power to destroy you and the power to build you up; it can make you more vulnerable while at the same time making you stronger.
Hardship or trauma has no inherent value. There is nothing beautiful in the trauma itself, but you might be able to reap something beneficial out of it. In the mid 1990's at the University of North Carolina, Richard Tedeschi and Lawrence Calhoun coined the phrase "Post Traumatic Growth" following research on persons who had experiences of trauma. Post traumatic growth is defined as "the positive psychological change experienced as a result of adversity and other challenges in order to rise to a higher level of functioning." Tedeschi & Calhoun found 5 main life domains in which survivors of trauma experienced growth:
1. Personal Strength
After experiencing trauma, people discovered inner strengths that they previously did not realize they had.
2. New Possibilities
Trauma can cause a remarkable shift in perspective and reprioritization of values. Things that used to seem very important suddenly lose their appeal and things that did not use to interest you, become vitally important.
3. Relating to Others
Undergoing a traumatic event accentuates how vitally important the support of other people is in your life. Relationships and interconnectedness become more of a priority in your life.
4. Appreciation of Life
Trauma can bring you face to face with your mortality, and leads you to value and treasure each moment of your life in a new way. The fact of being alive is no longer taken for granted.
5. Spiritual Change
Trauma has a way of helping you to face the big questions of life: What is the meaning and purpose of my life? Why did this happen to me? Finding the answers to these big questions becomes a personal quest and a catalyst for spiritual growth.
As Ernest Hemingway so eloquently stated: "The world breaks everyone and afterward many are strong in the broken places." Through the study of post traumatic growth, we are shown that we can become stronger and experience personal growth through being exposed to trauma. Ironically, trauma has the potential to help us develop a deeper sense of love, hopefulness and meaning in our lives.