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How Extreme Changes Lead to Post Traumatic Growth

January 20, 2013

Recently I read an article in a recent issue of Marie Claire on an amazing woman who was injured in a parachuting accident. She was told she would never walk again among many other major changes in her life. Prior to the accident this woman was an adventurer who took after her dare devil father, she began base jumping in her early twenties.

She proved the doctors wrong and walks, talks and thrives today as a role model to others who have experienced a major traumatic event in their life.

There is a psychological phenomena called post traumatic growth and it is the opposite of post traumatic stress.

Post traumatic growth helps explain why some people make positive changes and choices after an extremely traumatic event. I have been studying psychology and behavior for years and post traumatic growth helped to explain to me that in the face of a traumatic event we DO have a choice as we have always know to choose a lower energy response or a higher energy response.

Stress is often interpreted as a bad thing and positive psychology has asserted that stress necessary in order for us as humans to evolve and grow. Post traumatic stress is real and difficult and often those who suffer with it will turn to lower energy solutions such as drugs or alcohol.

In the case of post traumatic growth the person turns to higher energy solutions such as focusing on what they can do rather than on what they cannot do and they focus on building their inner resources through meditation, positive focus actions and more.

Think about the concept of post traumatic growth in the workplace. When I was in banking over twenty years ago I was in a series of bank robberies. They were traumatic with guns and masks and loud voices. Interestingly I saw those robberies as something that happened and they proved my ability to handle myself under pressure and it taught me a lot about my ability to handle high levels of stress. When I tell those stories to audiences they are often shocked and I get asked about how I was able to manage.

I think it was because as a child I had dealt with high levels of stress and change and I was raised by my father who taught me that resiliency the ability to get up and brush off and move on were valuable skills.

Think about a time in your life where you turned a stressful situation into a positive growth outcome.

Now think about the current stresses in your work and in your life- how can you choose a high energy response that is always about positivity, resourceful action and growth?

As humans we respond to stories of overcoming and triumph and that is why when we read or see a story about overcoming we respond emotionally. I believe it is because we see that someone else has made an energy positive focus and it inspires us to do the same.

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