I remember the first positive psychology term that I ever heard in class. This was a label unlike the other labels that I had studied in my psychology classes. It changed the direction of my life and the path that I would take to fulfill my calling. The term was post- traumatic growth, or PTG. The definition is positive change that occurs as a result of a struggle with a major life crisis or traumatic event. Simply put, bad things happened and the person/s finds a greater sense of purpose in life, a connection with something bigger than the self,such as a cause or greater appreciation for life and family.
What was it about PTG that had such a profound impact on my life and my career? I worked with our military on a daily basis at that time. All too often the service members would offer a warning,so to speak, about their possible reaction to loud noises. They would say “Ma’am, if I hear loud noises or a door slam I might hit the floor.” This would typically be followed with t I just returned home”, but always included, ” I have PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder)”
The part of this story that bothered me the most was the shame and defeat that accompanied this diagnosis, as if it were a life sentence. The diagnosis became an identity for some, our biggest heroes weighted down with a ruck sack they felt destined to carry for the rest of their life. I had listened to so many stories of losses from deployments and so much strength and bond of family and in their teams. I sat and listened with the gift that I had to give, a caring heart, and an appreciation for the great sacrifices made by them, their families, and their brothers and sisters in arms.
I remember the first time a service member shared their PTSD story/diagnosis with me after learning of post-traumatic growth. When his story was over I asked a simple question, “Have you ever heard of post-traumatic growth”? He asked me tell him more about it and so I shared how PTG is growth that is experienced after a traumatic event/s. It can show up in several ways: by a greater appreciation for life and family, through a shared or common bond of a new mission or cause, a greater sense of connection to those who suffer, new opportunities that would not have been present before, an increased sense of strength, or stronger religious connection. I asked him to do some research on the topic. I will never forget the reaction that quickly came from my patient. His face lit up and he boldly proclaimed ” I have that! I have that! Finally, a label that brought excitement not defeat. I did not have to ask him to share, he quickly told me that he was better prepared to help the young privates avoid IED’s (Improvised explosive device) because he survived an IED explosion. As a drill sargent this was especially impactful as he trained so many who would be deployed.
I am in no way saying that everyone that experiences trauma will experience post traumatic growth. Nor I am saying that everyone that experiences trauma will end up with post-traumatic stress disorder. What I am saying is that as humans we are incredibly resilient and we tend to find a way to make meaning out of life and situations. Looking back 6 plus years later this one term in a social psychology book set me on a journey of exploration. This exploration led me to the field of positive psychology. I found amazing programs from the flourishing center where I completed a certificate in applied positive psychology,CAPP, and became a certified resilience trainer, CRT, licensed to teach “Bounce Back Better(R) Resilience System” both flourishing center programs.
I love this field! I choose to focus on what is strong with people rather than what is wrong with people.
We need people in all areas of the vast field of psychology. I value the work and research of all who are called serve in all capacities in psychology. I glean knowledge daily through reading and listening to experts both clinical and research based. I hear and feel a common connection. A sense of using what we have experienced to help the lives of others. The satisfaction of being a part of something bigger than ourselves, a greater appreciation for life and relationships. Could it be,that those who work in the great field of psychology are products of PTG? I ask that you look at your life and experiences through the lens of opportunities.Where and how can you help others by what you have lived through? What can you teach? ~Katrina
#pospsych #changeagent #newmission #PTG
Katrina Goff, CAPP
Katrina Goff, CAPP
Positive Psychology Practitioner, Certified Resilience Trainer, Coach- CEO/ Owner PS3 Coaching LLC