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Crises Can Lead to Personal Growth

Posted Aug 23 2010 6:20am

From Therapy Evanston
By Linda Edelstein P.h.D.

There has been much good information written about the harmful effects of trauma, whether the damage was done from war, sexual abuse, violence, natural disasters or the other zillion ways of being harmed in this world. When I teach Adult Development to the Counseling Psychology graduate students at Northwestern University each Spring, we talk about trauma for two grueling weeks. By then, the students begin to look traumatized by our readings, lectures and discussion but, of course, they are in training to learn to be therapists, so that is part of the deal.

However, there is another, more positive, phenomenon that we discuss less often – positive growth. Researchers are beginning to write about Posttraumatic Growth (PTG), meaning that people experience positive change as a result of their struggles and working through of a big crisis. I believe that much of the positive growth comes from the person’s ability to mourn – that is, to work their way through the difficult experience, emotions, and beliefs. People don’t “get over” crises but they can get through them in and, like a long hard journey, reach a better, healthier, more creative place at the other end.

I’ve written ( books and papers) about the process of mourning for more than thirty years. I’ve written about the creative outcomes that are possible for more than fifteen years so many of those ideas will appear here regularly. I hope that you find them helpful. Tomorrow, I’ll say a bit more about the differences between men and women in achieving posttraumatic growth and mourning.

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