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Post Traumatic Growth

Posted on October 9, 2015

We have followed our hero on an epic journey out of normal life, into the darkness of trauma and suffering, and into the abyss of spiritual and emotional death. In that abyss, a mentor appears and a light of hope illuminates the darkness. Through changes in psychological, social, and environmental realities, the hero goes through a process of transformation. This bring us to the stage of post traumatic growth where our hero steps out of the darkness, while holding on to the wisdom and strength gained by the journey.

Hero Growth

As a trainer, I have struggled a bit with how to present post traumatic growth. This difficulty, especially in short workshops, comes from the complexity of the science of both trauma and transformation. It is hard to understand the wisdom and strength of the hero without first understanding their journey and struggles. Even with enough time and focus, the realization of post traumatic growth looks different for everyone and is hard to put into bullet-pointed slides.

I believe it is important here to once again return to the overstory and understory put forth by Phil Cousineau. As a refresher, Cousineau states: ”I refer to this mystery as the difference between the ‘overstory,’ which is the visible plot, and the ‘understory,’ which is the invisible movement of the soul of the main characters. What is mysterious about mythic stories is how they always meander back to the same place: your soul. In this sense myth is a living force, like the telluric powers that stream through the Earth. It is this mythic vision, looking for the ‘long story,’ the timeless table,that helps us approach the deep mysteries because it insists there is always more than meets the eye.”

Post traumatic growth is the emergence of a transformed soul or, on a scientific level the realization of genetic potential via epigenetics, with the resiliency and wisdom gained from overcoming trauma and suffering. There is a burst of energy and motivation that comes from understanding that if they can live through the hell of the abyss, they can search for new challenges and start to build the life they aspire to live.

The personal narrative is re-written. The main character, the understory, transforms from unworthy, unsafe, and unable to control their actions to some with a positive sense of self who has power in their lives. Relationships shift from being dangerous and painful to become balanced, understanding that some people are wonderful and caring while others can still cause harm and hurt. The world is also transformed from a harmful and painful place filled with suffering to one of opportunity. The main character brings to their relationships and the world a tremendous amount of “street smarts” that, mixed with resiliency and strength, allows them to also change their overstory as well.

One of the great things about the work we do is that we get to observe this emergence and witness the beautiful strength that accompanies it. I want to provide a forum this week for stories of transformation. We have all seen miraculous transformations and we need to take time recognize and appreciate these stories and the people behind them. I also want to provide space if you have a client that wants to share their story. I know many of you have used these posts in work with clients and if they would like a national audience to share with, please feel free to also post these in the comment section.

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