NYC Psychotherapist Blog

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Saturday, January 6, 2018

Posttraumatic Growth: Developing a Greater Sense of Hope and Meaning in the Aftermath of Trauma

There is so much information now about psychological trauma and posttraumatic stress disorder that most people have at least some awareness of what it means to be traumatized.  During the last several years, there has also been an increasing awareness of posttraumatic growth, which is the topic I'll be discussing in this article (see my article: Finding Meaning in Your Life After Trauma).

Posttraumatic Growth: Developing a Sense of Hope and Meaning in the Aftermath of Trauma

The Potential Positive Effects of Trauma
It might seem odd to say that trauma could have a positive effect on anyone, but many people who have traumatic experiences have grown from those experiences in ways they never would have thought possible before.

These positive changes in the aftermath of trauma have included:
  • Developing a Sense of Hope and Meaning: When you ask people who have experienced psychological growth after a traumatic experience, they often say that the single most important factor that helped them to grow was eventually finding hope and meaning in their situation.  These people actively seek to find meaning in their situation to continue to heal emotionally and, possibly, to help others. The psychoanalyst and Holocaust survivor, Victor Frankl, is an example of someone who lived through very traumatic experiences.  Not only was he held in a concentration camp, but Frankl also lost his wife and family in the Holocaust.  After he left the concentration camp, he went on to develop Logotherapy.  He continues to be an inspiration to millions of people because of he found hope and meaning in his trauma (see my article: A Search For a Meaningful Life).
  • Developing Increased Resilience:  After the initial stage of healing from a traumatic event, many people discover that they are more resilient.  Having survived a traumatic event helped them to realize that they can bounce back from very difficult circumstances (see my article: Resilience: Bouncing Back From Life's Challenges).
  • Developing a Greater Sense of Confidence: Along with resilience, people who overcome trauma often develop a greater sense of self confidence when they look back at what they survived.  Knowing that they survived and found hope and meaning as a result of their trauma helps them to face other situations more confidently.
  • Developing a Greater Appreciation For Loved Ones and For Life: As they are healing emotionally, many people who have experienced trauma develop a greater appreciation for their loved ones.  They also often develop an increased appreciation for life itself and making the most of life since they realize that life is short and time is precious.
  • Developing Self Compassion and Compassion For Others:  Many people who have overcome traumatic events can look back and appreciate how hard it was to survive the traumatic event.  This helps them to feel increased self compassion and compassion for others who might be going through similar situations.
  • Developing a Greater Sense of Purpose: Along with finding hope, meaning and a sense of motivation, people who survive trauma often want more from life.  They want to live a purposeful life aligned with their core values (see my article: Living Authentically Aligned With Your Values).  
  • Creating Positive Changes For Others: Aside from developing a greater sense of purpose for themselves, some people who survive trauma go on to help others based on their experiences.  For instance, a mother who lost a child because of an accident with a drunk driver might become a leader in the community to advocate for a change in drunk driving laws.  She uses her experience to have a positive impact on others.
Getting Help in Therapy to Overcome Trauma
Overcome trauma is a process, which means that most people who eventually go on to experience posttraumatic growth start by grieving and working through their traumatic experiences (see my article: The Benefits of Psychotherapy).

It's important to work through trauma first, otherwise you might just be avoiding your uncomfortable feelings related to the trauma.

Along the way, while you're in therapy, you can begin to find hope and meaning in your experience, but it's important to go through the working through process first.

It's difficult to resolve trauma on your own.  A skilled trauma-informed psychotherapist can help you to heal (see my article: How to Choose a Psychotherapist).

Rather than suffering on your own, you could benefit from getting help from a licensed mental health professional who has experience with helping clients to overcome trauma.

About Me
I am a licensed NYC psychotherapist, hypnotherapist, EMDR and Somatic Experiencing therapist who uses integrative psychotherapy (see my article: The Therapeutic Benefits of Integrative Psychotherapy).

One of my specialties is helping clients to work through their traumatic history so they can lead more fulfilling lives.

To find out more about me, visit my website: Josephine Ferraro, LCSW - NYC Psychotherapist.

To set up a consultation, call me at (917) 742-2624 during business hours or email me.