Post Traumatic Growth (PTG)
You’ve likely heard of the acronym PTSD, which stands for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. PTSD is a very real disorder that affects everyone from our brave combat veterans to those unfortunate enough to have suffered abuse and trauma. PTSD is particularly daunting, for it’s the proverbial 'salt in the wound' - not only do people suffer a traumatic episode, they also suffer again and again in the aftereffects of that trauma through their disorder.
While many of us are fortunate not to have to face the demons of PTSD and the events that bring it about, all of us face significant challenges and suffering at some point in our lives. In the realm of sport and fitness, you will likely suffer setbacks and/or injury during your journey. But misfortune on the field of play and in the expression of our physicality need not be a setback in the long run. In fact, you might contend that setbacks are actually positives in disguise. Even when it comes to permanent injury, many wrongfully assume that those with a disability are likely to be less happy given such trauma. But studies show that this isn’t actually the case. Known as the ‘disability paradox,’ those with permanent disability can very much demonstrate the opportunity for productive lives, happiness, and growth. Much like its oppressive cousin PTSD, there’s also acronym for such growth - “PTG” or Post Traumatic Growth. PTG, also referred to as adversarial growth, suggests that no matter what difficulties happen to us, we can grow, thrive, and prosper in spite of and even because of such trauma.
“...no matter what difficulties happen to us, we can grow, thrive, and prosper in spite of and even because of such trauma.”
— Eric Stevens
My brother had a massive stroke at the age of 30. Among the things taken from him was his status as an expert level alpine skier as well as his passion for riding European motorcycles. Though he had a wonderful recovery and maintains a successful and active lifestyle, he does not have 100% complete feeling on the right side of his body. Double black diamond ski runs and BMW motorcycles are out. You might expect bitterness, anger, and perhaps even bouts of PTSD in response to such a dramatic episode. To quite the contrary, in the aftermath and years following his episode, my brother has gained both wisdom and clarity about his true essence. While I can’t speak for my brother, he almost seems more content because of the worst and most traumatic thing that ever happened to him. Why? The short answers are faith, humility, and the willingness to redefine himself.
“We have to be careful with labels because any material thing can (and most likely will) be taken from you at some point.”
Labels are things we use to determine our self worth – athlete, wealthy, successful business owner, artist, husband. Yet we have to be careful with labels because any material thing can (and most likely will) be taken from you at some point. Your gift isn’t a guarantee. Labels change - Bodies break down, athletes retire, kids grow up, and marriages break up. What matters is taking the good from your trauma to define your next label. Addicts can sober up and spend their lives helping other addicts. You might fail your marriage but what matters is getting that next marriage right. You pick up a new sport, a new gig, or a new hobby. You change the label. My brother turned to his faith and found his strength through humility. He didn’t need toys, activities, or even his physicality to define is self worth. Neither do you.
We are the culmination of all of the things that happen to us. The good, the bad, and the ugly. But circumstances aren’t the mark of the man. Rather, the mark of the man is the willingness to face the day in order to make better on the next one. In life we will define ourselves in many different ways at many different times. Sometimes you’ve got the world by the tail, and sometimes the weight of the world feels like it will crush you.
Changing labels is hard. It’s great fun to be talented and gifted. To feel life you’ve perfected your craft. But some day, you’ll face a trauma. Maybe it will mean the end of your career, marriage, or favorite activity. But maybe that end will mark the beginning of your next chapter. Success ultimately isn’t about talent or wealth, but perseverance - The willingness to try, to grow, to learn from your mistakes. To be better today than you were yesterday. Ultimately what matters is growth. What matters is progress. To learn from your setbacks and be a better person for it.
“We are the culmination of all of the things that happen to us. The good, the bad, and the ugly. But circumstances aren’t the mark of the man. Rather, the mark of the man is the willingness to face the day in order to make better on the next one.”
— Eric Stevens