Post-Traumatic Growth: What It Takes to Heal from Trauma?

Over the last decade, a broad range of new studies has developed from the work on post-traumatic growth, which has been suggested as being important for understanding how people cope with trauma and its aftermath.

In contrast to traditional models of adaptation that predict negative outcomes after adversity, research has shown that some individuals experience a significant personal change in reactions to trauma.

These findings suggest an alternate view of resilience where not only do some grow stronger through adversity but also many others report positive changes such as personal insight, more meaningful interpersonal relationships, greater appreciation of life, and increased spirituality. This paper will review the current state of knowledge on post-traumatic growth and highlight ways that future research can address the remaining questions about this construct.

5 phases of post-traumatic growth:

1. Shattering (or mental breakdown) -this is the phase of feeling shattered, demoralized, and de-energized after suffering a traumatic experience

2. Intrusion (or mental anguish)- this is the reoccurring memories of the experience that cause nightmares, flashbacks, etc.

3. Reconstruction – during this phase you start rebuilding your life after being severely shaken up by a traumatic experience. Many go through this stage with help from friends, support groups, or therapists who guide them through it

4. Connection – In this phase you realize how much you have grown as a person and feel happy about making changes in your life

5. Integration – This is the final stage where you have accepted what’s happened to you. You learn to live with the trauma and also see it as a life-changing experience

1- Shattering or Mental Breakdown:

This is the phase of feeling shattered, demoralized, and de-energized after suffering a traumatic experience. A person going through this phase who gets depressed more often than usual may feel anxious, scared, numb, and fatigued. In some cases, he/she experiences nightmares or flashbacks about the incident.

He/She feels extremely vulnerable at this time as they are not able to trust people easily. At times he/she will start becoming more aware of his surroundings which is a natural response from his body as this was one of the symptoms of arousal which would have helped him fight back if he had received any physical injury.

A person feels disconnected from his body and reality at this time as the mind is unable to cope with the experience and tries to divert all energy towards processing it. This phase usually lasts for a few months after which if a person does not get any professional help or support they may develop more serious mental conditions such as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), clinical depression, anxiety disorders, etc.

2- Intrusion:

During this phase, you start re-experiencing your traumatic memories through flashbacks, nightmares, obsessions, and intrusive thoughts that keep popping into your mind out of nowhere.

These experiences can also lead to avoidance behavior of places, people, and things that remind you of the trauma leading to isolation from society thus creating a traumatic bond with the event.

This phase usually subsides in a few months and can take up to several years for some people if they don’t receive proper help. Some lack the support necessary at this critical time and it prevents them from moving forward in their lives thus creating negative feelings such as guilt, shame, anger, hopelessness, etc.

3- Reconstruction:

During this stage, you start rebuilding your life after being severely shaken up by a traumatic experience. Many go through this stage with help from friends, family, support groups, or therapists who guide them through it.

Life becomes a struggle at times but slowly a person gets back on his feet and learns to appreciate little things in life that he previously took for granted – like going out for a walk, a tasty meal to eat, spending time with loved ones.

This stage helps a person start thinking positively about himself and the world around him again as he starts feeling normal which is what everyone desires after going through such an experience.

4- Connection:

In this phase, you realize how much you have grown as a person and feel happy about making changes in your life. Now instead of being angry over little things you can see the positive side of life – like enjoying a beautiful sunset, laughing at a joke, or seeing a baby’s smile for the first time.

You become more patient and empathic towards other people’s problems because now you understand where they are coming from. People start noticing these positive changes in your behavior but sometimes they just cannot believe that you have gone through such a harrowing experience because the person looks very happy and completely fine.

This stage may take anywhere from months to years depending upon how each individual copes with life after going through such an incident.

5- Integration:

This stage is the final stage where you accept what’s happened to you. You realize that things happen for reasons and it wasn’t your fault at all – like if someone betrays you or cheats on you, it wasn’t because of anything you did but their insecurities, fears, or problems that made them act the way they did towards you. Most people reach this stage within 6–12 months after any traumatic experience while others may take several years before they can get over something like this.

6- The last stage people reach is known as a “Lifetime Reframe” where they feel that their traumatic experience brought something good into their lives and illuminates the ability to help others who have gone through a similar experience.

Many even become trauma therapists themselves if they don’t want to work in any other profession because of what they’ve been through – helping people overcome difficult times in life becomes an exceptional source of strength for them. This stage usually takes years to manifest itself and doesn’t happen with everyone but when it does it can make a person extremely happy, satisfied, and fulfilled.

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