Some terms have similar meanings. They can be used interchangeably in everyday conversation. For the purposes of psychology, however, some differences matter. Take, for example, the term “post-traumatic growth” and the term “resilience”. There are clear and present intersections. However, there are key reasons they should be differentiated.
In short: resilience is a personal attribute. Individuals can be resilient with or without the presence of a traumatic event. Post-traumatic growth, or PTG, is meant to describe a positive response to a terrible situation. A person without any previous sign of resilience can develop the ability to bounce back when necessary.
Let’s take a closer look at both.
Everyone faces tough, even overwhelming situations. As you have surely noticed, some folks seem to endure and return to emotional stability more adeptly than others. Everyone has some level of internal resiliency. Those with higher levels appear to handle distressing experiences without needing to transform themselves. They are what we sometimes call “survivors.” A few of the factors linked to resilience include:
- ongoing display of hope and optimism
- a sense of humor
- support from people in your life (particularly your parents)
- achievement or success in one or more parts of your life
- a general ability to deal with negative emotions
A few of these characteristics of resiliency may also be at play:
- resilience has been honed over time, like any attribute or skill
- a low level of resilience caused by childhood trauma
- inconsistent resilience (resilience in one facet of life does not mean you are resilient in all)
It is important to note that there is nothing “wrong” with people who struggle with resilience. However, they may face more hardship when it comes to recovering after trauma.
Post-traumatic growth is what we call the process of dealing with and healing from a crisis. Generally speaking, PTG occurs in five forms:
1. Recognizing Opportunities
As difficult as it might be to see, distressing scenarios provide room for opportunities. PTG happens when you can recognize this reality. You latch onto the chance to learn and grow. PTG often takes the shape of setting goals that once seemed irrational or impossible. Yes, you have been through a lot but now, you are identifying new possibilities.
Trauma can induce you to withdraw. It feels challenging to trust others so, social isolation makes you feel safe. As you move along the process of recovery, your post-traumatic growth can become apparent in your interactions. You develop new connections. Your relationships become more intimate. Also, you find yourself feeling far more empathy and compassion for the people you encounter in your life.
3. Personal Strength
It can feel truly revelatory to fully recognize your own inner strength. Until an extreme situation tests you, you may not even know such strength exists. When left feeling vulnerable, you might dig deep and find hidden reserves. This is precisely where PTG intersects most neatly with resilience. Tapping into your personal power is a foundation for developing resiliency.
In the throes of a traumatic event, it’s truly hard to count your blessings. As you experience PTG, however, it is common to summon a deeper appreciation of life. You’ve witnessed how tough it can get. Thus, you more easily find pleasure in what you may have taken for granted.
Rising from the ashes has the potential to shake your beliefs. In the darkest of times, you’ve discovered inner strength, deeper appreciation, and new opportunities. It’s no surprise that this process can feel spiritual (however to define that term).
Are you dealing with the aftermath of a traumatic event? Let’s talk about what you can do to increase your resilience and post-traumatic growth. I invite you to read more about trauma therapy. Then, let’s connect soon for a free and confidential consultation.