Post-Traumatic Growth During COVID-19

Post-Traumatic Growth During COVID-19

We’ve all heard of PTSD, but not many people are familiar with post-traumatic growth. Developed by psychologists Richard Tedeschi, PhD, and Lawrence Calhoun, PhD, in the mid-1990s, Post Traumatic Growth (PTG) suggests that people who endure severe psychological struggle following adversity can often see unexpected growth afterward in the form of appreciation, family bonding, reprioritization, new possibilities and spiritual enhancement.

It’s difficult to think of trauma as a normal life event, but it is. We will all experience some form of it in our lifetime through sudden loss, catastrophic weather events, health issues, combat, robbery, car accidents, and more. As the trauma ripples through our lives, so does the potential for growth. It is thought that those who are open to new experiences are more likely to undergo PTG than those who resist change and get locked into their previous world view. You don’t have to look for a silver lining for things to change, but you do have to be open to positive change in order to take advantage of new possibilities.  

Although we are now generally living in a post-covid world, most people report that they do not see their lives returning to pre-covid normalcy. Only 18 months ago we thought we were safe from virus’s that mostly plague third world countries, but we were wrong. Our stability was shattered, our lives threatened, and our way of life completely disrupted. It scared us and challenged our belief system. A brief survey of statistics shows that since COVID-19; crime, airline complaints and road rage reports are higher, as is domestic violence, depression, anxiety, suicide and acts of vandalism. Life expectancy has also been shortened by one to three years depending on your socio-economic status, and the divide between the wealthy and poor has never been clearer. Good things, however, happened too. A recent study in the British Journal of Psychiatry reports that 88% of respondents reported positive results from the pandemic with most respondents identifying a less frenetic pace of life as the biggest benefit.

One area of unexpected growth in PTG is enhanced spiritual development, the definition of which can often be vague and misleading. One way to look at spiritual development is by viewing events through a wider context. As mentioned, those who think in bigger terms are more likely to experience PTG. The idea that there is something greater out there than the misery we are confined to is the hallmark of awareness, which therefore becomes the key to spiritual growth. In contrast, for those who become fearful and victimized, the world becomes smaller. They tend to excessively worry about what is happening to them and find continuing support for their ruminations in news outlets and blog posts. For those who take control over their lives, their world changes. They pivot, show more resiliency and create change even while things are breaking down around them. It’s not that they become socially disinterested or deny the impact of the trauma, rather they become personally invested; they find greater meaning in life by reflecting upon what happened to them rather than having it crush them to no end.

Maya Angelou famously said, “Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.” We are in the “do better” phase of the pandemic. We learned a big lesson in humility from COVID-19, namely that the virus was bigger than us. We were challenged to be bigger ourselves and to take more control over our lives. Take the restaurant owner who developed a take-out menu and changed the storefront into a grocery store. The husband and wife who decided to work remotely to build a stronger foundation for their family. The homeowner who moved to a more rural part of the country because city life was never appealing. The hobbyist who finally got around to building furniture and then turned it into a new career. The many of us who developed a better work/life balance. Or the unhappy couple who decided to part ways rather than living in the turmoil of their relationship. Some people took big risks, others simply got around to meditating. No matter the situation, there was positive and irrevocable change for many due to the trauma of the pandemic.

PTG is the outcome for those who take charge even though they are still traumatized by prevailing events. To promote PTG, think bigger, act better and pursue your ambition, big or small, by stepping up to new opportunities. The world is full of possibilities that are unpredictable and potentially life altering but we cannot fulfill them if we don’t pursue them.

Five Minute Articles For Your Consideration2 comments

  1. Robert Mance says:

    My positive attitude enabled me to whether the storm.
    Since last December I have had two heart catherizations, a tooth extracted, and now I am preparing to have a hip replacement. My strength has returned and I’m ready to face the future.
    My family life is much better as is my family and 8 great grandchildren ( 3 of whom arrived during Covid). I cry now when I realize how happy I am to have ‘stayed the way’ to the post-Civid world of opportunity and growth!

    • Larry says:

      Thanks for your comment, Robert. So glad to hear that you’re doing remarkably well through the controversy and the challenges of the past 18 months. Your attitude it inspiring!

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