Trauma has been traditionally considered as intrinsically pathological. Some psychologists are now arguing that although damaging, the experience of trauma can also inspire some people to change in positive ways.
The concept has been named ‘post-traumatic growth’ and is the subject of significant debate among contemporary researchers and clinicians.
The debate is covered in a recent article for Psychology Today where proponents of both sides of the argument make their case.
The article relates the experience of trauma to activities such as ultra-marathon running where competitors may run hundreds of miles and push themselves to physical and psychological exhaustion in an attempt to achieve new goals.
A slightly more weighty article on the topic appeared in a 2004 article in the Psychiatric Times where psychologists Richard Tedeschi and Lawrence Calhoun aimed to explain how such personal development could occur after extreme experiences.
One thing which is still not clear, is how many people experience ‘post-traumatic growth’ and whether it is more than optimistic thinking after the event, as research into the phenomenon is still relatively thin on the ground.