How you can grow from pain

How you can grow from pain; Post traumatic growth.

Experiencing pain can be really hard however it is something that is inevitable as we all experience pain some time in our life.  Pain, suffering, heartache, disappointment is a part of the human experience.   When confronted by these challenging experiences it can be hard to see how you could possibly benefit from them but there’s a possibility your pain pushes you to have the greatest personal growth.  Research supports this idea and has found 50 to 70% of people who survive a traumatic event report positive changes after the event. 

Defining Post Traumatic Growth

This concept of growing from pain is known as Post Traumatic Growth which is closely related to Post Traumatic Trauma, but it’s when you take your pain and use it to grow psychologically.  Tedeshi & Calhoun, 2004) describe Post Traumatic Growth as:

“Post traumatic growth is not about returning to the same life as it was previously experienced before a period of traumatic suffering; but rather it is about undergoing significant life changing psychological shifts in thinking and relating to the world, that contribute to a personal process of change that is deeply meaningful”.

It is important to understand that post-traumatic growth is not the opposite reaction to post-traumatic stress but these are two separate kinds of responses that can occur within the same person simultaneously, and over time, and that the experience of distress can actually promote the development of growth.

Some examples of how people grow from their pain are;

  • Deepened personal relationships.
  • Appreciation of family, friends and life
  • Priorities may change
  • Change paths into more meaningful work
  • Greater wisdom
  • Feel stronger
  • Find hidden abilities and strengths
  • A better perspective on life.

3 Things you can do to help you grow from your pain.

Post traumatic growth isn’t something that is necessarily experienced in the early stages of recovery after experiencing a traumatic event, it may be a few years before you able to grow from your pain, but these 3 things may help you;

  1. Work through your emotions; This may take some time but it is important to process your emotions by understanding how and why you feel the way you do, in other words getting to the root cause of the emotion, for example, if you say you are extremely sad because a loved one has passed away then explore the sadness, is the sadness from not having the person with you anymore or because you a grieving for a future with this person that no longer exists? Talking about how you feel is a helpful way of processing emotions.
  2. What has this traumatic experience taught you; There are always lessons to be learnt and finding out what your experience can teach you, helps get your power back so you can move on, for example, if you have experienced a heart attack is your lesson about having a healthy lifestyle or if your marriage has broken up, is the lesson about rediscovering and redefining your sense of ‘self’.
  3. A willingness to change; Once you have discovered what your experience has taught you, then your growth will come from your willingness to change and doing things differently. Set some goals on what you need to do to support your recovery and growth.  Then take action and use your pain to lead you on your path to growth. 

There is no doubt that growing from pain maybe the hardest thing you have ever done, but it is possible and you are given a choice of whether you want to grow from your pain or not. 

To hear from someone who was able to transform his pain into growth then watch this video of Dave Sanderson who survived a plane crash in the Hudson Rivern:


Written by: Kimberley Aguet (Counsellor)

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