Can Good Really Come from Bad? Understanding Posttraumatic Growth

By: Bari Sobelson, MS, LMFT

Sunset Sky
Pixabay[Sunset Sky, January 4, 2014, by Adina Voicu]
Most of us know about Post Traumatic Stress Disorder at this point. We may have heard about it in relation to the experience of combat veterans, natural disasters, or any other traumatic life event or crisis. Some of us may even know someone who suffers from PTSD. But, there is a new term related to the experience of traumatic events and life crises coined by Posttraumatic Growth Research Group at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. Posttraumatic Growth is the idea that something positive comes from these negative experiences- growth. The group contends that while this idea is certainly not new, the systematic study of this is, in fact, relatively new.

According to the PTG Research Group, the growth has a tendency to happen in the following 5 areas:

  1. New opportunities have emerged from the struggleperhaps the experience has opened the door for opportunities that may not have presented themselves before.
  2. Change in relationships with othersa traumatic event may bring people closer together for various reasons.
  3. Increased sense of own strengththe trauma may have shown the survivor that they have more strength than they ever imagined, having survived the experience.
  4. Greater appreciation for lifethe event may have “opened the eyes” of the survivor to new aspects of life they never saw before.
  5. Change in or deepening of religious/spiritual beliefsIt is quite possible that the experience could shift spiritual/religious beliefs in various ways, depending on the person.

While PTG Research Group recognizes the potential for the growth from traumatic experiences, they also see the importance in acknowledging the following:

  • While people may experience growth from traumatic events, they still suffer.
  • There is no implication that traumatic events are good.
  • Not everyone who experiences a traumatic event will experience growth

So, can good really come from bad? The answer: there is certainly potential for growth.

References

U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs: https://www.va.gov

The University of North Carolina at Charlotte: http://www.uncc.edu

Posttraumatic Growth  Research Group:  http://ptgi.uncc.edu

This post was written by Bari Sobelson, MS, LMFT, the Social Media and Programming Coordination Specialist for the MFLN Family Development Team. The Family Development team aims to support the development of professionals working with military families.  Find out more about the Military Families Learning Network Family Development concentration on our website, Facebook, and Twitter.

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