Trauma and the Five Domains Of Growth.

Are you having a tough time lately? What with all the social changes happening right now, jobs being lost, threats if insecurity and the rising divorce rate is it any wonder! And for businesses it’s no less daunting as changes add to the additional responsibility they have to their employees. It is almost as traumatic for those keeping their jobs as it is for those facing redundancy because guilt, why them and not me? Plus the loss of the relationship with colleagues greatly affects people.
For the self-employed or small business owner it’s a time to review their market place. A number of small businesses have been (and still will be) lost due contracts being stopped. Don’t put all your eggs in one basket comes to mind but it’s a painful lesson if you’ve seen this as a particular niche in your business.
Research however has shown that good things come from trauma and change. It’s necessary to move us onto another dimension of ourselves. To start a new chapter in our lives or our businesses so let’s start by looking at the domains of growth following change:

Five Domains Of Growth

1. A greater appreciation of life
2. A changed sense of priorities
3. Warmer, more intimate relationships
4. A greater sense of personal strength
5. Recognition of new possibilities for one’s life and spiritual relationships

In other words the person has changed.

Trauma, whether it’s divorce, an accident, illness, bereavement or divorce has been shown to have unexpected positive benefits, much to the psychologists who first discovered it. Following the sinking of the Herald of Free Enterprise in 1987 when only 207 people survived out of the 400 people on board a survey was conducted by Stephen Joseph, Professor of psychology at the University of Nottingham. Survivors were asked if their view of life had changed following the accident. Nearly half said their life had changed in a positive way following the accident. Since then, they question of why some people struggle following trauma, while others thrive, has been the focus of his research.

Time and time again following tragedy and horror, amid the pain, people often talk about finding something beneficial in their struggles, a greater meaning in their life, a sense of purpose and knowing what their priorities are.

The term post traumatic growth, or PTG, describes this experience that sometimes follows a trauma as not about bouncing back, but it’s more of a profound shift in the psyche.

Professor W.Keith Campbell, head of social psychology at the University of Georgia describes trauma as an ‘ego shock’. He says that all our protective armour is blown away as our world explodes and we are left with a scattering of our old self that we have to struggle to get back together again. People will often say they want to go back to how they were but trauma changes that as no-one can ever go back because things are now irretrievably changed. We have to find ways to live with that. Trying to keep things the same can make things worse.

Part of coming to terms with the grief we feel is about constructing a story so we can try to understand what has happened and come to terms with it. The struggle and pain leads to growth. Eventually the person sees their world differently.
Not everyone recovers from trauma particularly in unemployment, redundancy, child abuse, rape or physical or mental abuse. This is because high levels of post-traumatic stress can impede growth. This causes the person to get locked in to avoid having to cope with the reality of what has happened. In doing so, their stress levels remain high and it can spiral into negative thinking such as anger, guilt or shame.

What happens when our world is blown apart is the shattering of assumptions of how things were and who we were ourselves. When it happens we wonder how we are going to re-build our lives. And we begin the struggle and process of letting go of who we were. We must do that to move on and it’s a painful to realise the person you thought you were is dead and gone forever.

Clinging to what’s no longer there whether that’s our relationship, our health, our status, or whatever, will only prolong the pain. There’s no way to go through it other than to go through it. If you come close to death (or annihilation of your old self, as in a divorce) it’s likely to change you. Yes, it is distressing but it can also be a wake up call. Through struggles we often gain wisdom and we shouldn’t ignore that. (Stephen Joseph, Professor of Psychology at the University of Nottingham).

Joseph suggest that you first of all look for growth by keeping a diary of things you notice about yourself that are different. Value those aspects of positive change and make them central to your life. Think of ways you can make use of what you’ve learned about yourself. It will be a long journey but the pain will pass.

Article by: Wendy Howard, Spirit of Venus, www.spiritofvenus.co.uk & www.grow-training.com

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