Posttraumatic Growth: Positive Changes in the aftermath of Crisis

Posttraumatic Growth: Positive Changes in the aftermath of Crisis

Posttraumatic Growth: Positive Changes in the aftermath of Crisis

Posttraumatic Growth: Positive Changes in the aftermath of Crisis

Synopsis

That which does not kill us makes us stronger. (Nietzsche)

The phenomenon of positive personal change following devastating events has been recognized since ancient times, but given little attention by contemporary psychologists and psychiatrists, who have tended to focus on the negative consequences of stress.

In recent years, evidence from diverse fields has converged to suggest the reality and pervasive importance of the processes the editors sum up as posttraumatic growth. This volume offers the first comprehensive overview of these processes. The authors address a variety of traumas--among them bereavement, physical disability, terminal illness, combat, rape, and natural disasters--following which experiences of growth have been reported.

How can sufferers from posttraumatic stress disorder best be helped? What does "resilience" in the face of high risk mean? Which personality characteristics facilitate growth? To what extent is personality change possible in adulthood? How can concepts like happiness and self-actualization be operationalized? What role do changing belief systems, schemas, or "assumptive worlds" play in positive adaptation? Is "stress innoculation" possible? How do spiritual beliefs become central for many people struck by trauma, and how are posttraumatic growth and recovery from substance abuse or the crises of serious physical illnesses linked?

Such questions have concerned not only the recently defined and expanding group of "traumatologists," but also therapists of all sorts, personality and social psychologists, developmental and cognitive researchers, specialists in health psychology and behavioral medicine, and those who study religion and mental health. Overcoming the challenges of life's worst experiences can catalyze new opportunities for individual and social development. Learning about persons who discover or create the perception of positive change in their lives may shed light on the problems of those who continue to suffer.

Posttraumatic Growthwill stimulate dialogue among personality and social psychologists and clinicians, and influence the theoretical foundations and clinical agendas of investigators and practitioners alike.

Excerpt

We have been working to develop information about and interest in the phenomenon of posttraumatic growth (PTG) for several years--in the case of Rich Tedeschi and Lawrence Calhoun, since the early 1980s, and in the case of Crystal Park, since the early 1990s, when she studied religion, coping, and stress-related growth as a graduate student with Lawrence Cohen at the University of Delaware. We have found ptg compelling for various reasons. in our clinical experiences and interviews with research participants, reports of the transformative power of trauma have had a naturally inspiring quality. the paucity of research, together with the ancient themes reflected in the stories of life-changing responses, have suggested that we are looking at a fundamental human experience from a fresh perspective. That these reports are seldom discussed in the research or clinical literature seems to have left traumatologists to conclude that only the most negative outcomes are worthy of our attention. If it is noticed at all, the experience of growth in the aftermath of crisis has been viewed primarily as defensive or illusory. Closer examination of ptg indicates that more than that is going on in many persons who describe this experience. It has been exciting for us to document the phenomenon, devise ways to measure it, and develop theory to explain it. in doing so, we hope we are laying the groundwork for ways to encourage positive change among trauma survivors.

Our goal has been to stimulate both researchers studying trauma, stress, and coping, and clinicians involved in crisis intervention to consider ptg as well as posttraumatic psychological disorders as worthy of attention. We have gathered together a small group of people who have been working on ptg and closely related phenomena, and have asked them to focus on issues of definition and measurement and on the role of individual, situational, and social characteristics in its facilitation. We have also given the contributors an opportunity to suggest theoretical foundations for research and to answer some of the fundamental questions about ptg that remain unexplored. We hope the reader will forgive occasional redundancy that may result because we have asked the contributors to approach the evidence for ptg from various perspectives.

We expect that students of various traumas, including bereavement, physical illness and disability, crime, natural disasters, combat, and social . . .

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