Post-Traumatic Growth

Seth Godin summed it up pretty well: “The last eight weeks have been like no other.  An unfolding tragedy, unevenly distributed.  An economic freeze.  A media frenzy.”  (Along with the features like physical distancing and at times social isolation.  And don’t forget the UnknownZoomification of meetings, meet-ups, support groups … you name it.) “It’s easy to be exhausted, especially since there’s still quite a lot of slog left to go.”

In the midst of this slog, I continue to have regular conversations with healthcare workers around the U.S.  They continue to inspire and at times surprise me.  A couple of weeks ago healthcare workers in New York City moved me by their desire to speak of their gratitude in the midst of the pandemic.

And just last week a nurse leader introduced me to a new term that highlighted and focused on a theme that has been emerging in these conversations.  In the midst of this experience of dislocation, uncertainty and accompanying anxiety, I have heard many reflect on the ways that adapting to the current challenge is changing how they think about and approach their work, life and priorities.  In the midst of what many have described as a stressful and even traumatic experience, many are talking about growth.  So when a nurse participating in a huddle last week talked about post-traumatic growth, she caught my ear.

Post-traumatic growth – the reality that the afterlife of traumatic experiences includes not only stress, but growth as well.  Sometimes transformative growth.

This makes perfect sense of course.  In my own life, I tend to be more open to growing when something has broken open.  When my efforts to maintain the veneer of business as usual have conspicuously failed, the little wise guy in me sighs and says, “Well, it’s not as if you have anything to lose at this point.  You might as well go for it.”  It’s almost enough to make me grateful for the breaking.

There are some trees (lodgepole pines and eucalyptus) whose seeds can germinate only after being subjected to fire fierce enough to burn away the resin in which they have been encased until that moment.  Other seeds lie in wait for years in desert conditions until microorganisms have sufficiently broken down their hard exterior to allow water and light to work their magic.

Sometimes it seems the breaking is just the opening that growth and new life need to get started.

How about you?  In the midst of this time of great stretch and stress, what change or growth do you sense wants to happen?

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