My typically upbeat client was having an uncharacteristic Debbie Downer kind of day. She spent our session re-visiting and mourning her abusive childhood, multiple betrayals, and health challenges.
I acknowledged and empathized with her … she truly had suffered quite a lot.
After a long pause, I said, “Sometimes the hardest things in life do us the favor of opening our eyes to the most important things.”
My client shrugged and said “Yeah” unimpressed and uninspired.
But as I crossed the street to return home I thought what I’d said was pretty profound.
I used to believe “pain brings purpose” … like it was an automatic thing that would happen over the course of time.
Now I believe pain brings awareness and it forces you to think more about, and CARE more about, purpose.
But pain doesn’t automatically result in purpose. You have to put in significant work for that to happen.
If you want to feel bad forever, deep pain and trauma will certainly provide you with an excuse. But pain combined with a sense of eternal awareness and things beyond self … that is where growth happens and purpose is born.
A few months after I had this little “a-ha” moment with myself, I read an article that reinforced my idea and I found there’s actual science behind it.
The term Post-Traumatic Growth (PTG) was coined in the mid-1990s by psychologists Richard Tedeschi and Lawrence Calhoun.
Post-traumatic growth is a positive mental shift experienced as a result of trauma/adversity.
Even though I already knew this, I found it exciting to discover it’s a real thing backed by research and evidence.
I also found it exciting to know it’s not only my personal opinion, it’s a fact that the final word on loss is NOT a future filled with endless despair. You won't be stuck in grief forever.
You can experience significant growth and positive change, not in spite of trauma but BECAUSE of trauma.
Here’s another way to think of it: We don’t bounce back from challenges, we bounce forward.
I realize this MAY not seem like exciting news to you.
Maybe you're feeling SO NOT THERE yet … like a hollowed out husk incapable of bouncing, much less in a forward direction. In that case, you can have hope knowing what’s possible for your future.
The time will come when, because of your trauma, you’ll be able to:
experience more profound joy, gratitude, and compassion than ever before
be fully present and participating in your life
have more intimate and meaningful relationships
have a completely changed outlook and perspective on life
You may even find a new purpose in life.
I did. And I’m so thankful because that’s what caused me to leave my 20+ year accounting career and become a life/grief coach and to shine the light of hope for others.
Speaking of growth, check out my updated home page. It was designed to inspire healing, hope, purpose, and transformation.
What do you think? Nailed it or still needs work?
Either way I hope you found a nugget of healing or even better, a goldmine of hope.
P.S. To learn more about Post-Traumatic Growth , read these 2 in-depth articles from The Science of People and Psychology Today.
P.P.S. For a list of excellent resources to aid and improve your personal growth, check out this post.