If people knew the tragedies you've experienced your life, do you think they would expect the tragedies to have done more good than harm ? Would you undo your tragedies and losses if you could?
Research (*cited in post script) suggests that it has, in fact, that they most likely have done more good than harm. We often tell ourselves and each other a different story. We worry that if people knew what we've been through they'd look at us differently. But why? Why do we expect people to be broken by life's trials rather than expanded by them?
I was drawn to topic because what I know as a human and a psychotherapist is that people are far stronger than we tend to give credit for. I do this work because it is inspiring and that would not be the case if the majority of people experiencing loss and grief weren't also changing themselves and their lives for the better in the process of coming out the other side.
It backs up something I have known for a very long time. That people who go through a 'dark knight of the soul' and come out the other side find something in themselves that they would not have thought to look for.
Don't get me wrong, that dark knight is devastating, often literally. There may be years of pain and loss before growth is evident. These are not things we choose. But some how, that few studies that have been done on this, show that the majority of folks say that they would not go back and chance fate even if they could.
Research from as far back as the 1960s documents the positive long term outcomes of major tragedy. Reports form the 80s show 40% or less of people who experienced major traumas reported PTSD symptoms, the same studies showed that combat veterans trauma was a little higher, but still less than half.
The other 60+% of the people? Everyone else reported a net gain. Meaning after going through hell, once they come out the other side, they felt themselves better for having gone through it. Yes, 60% is a soft majority, but it is the majority and not at all the way we talk about tragedy and loss now.
So here's the deal. I invite us to start to think of each other as the creative, resilient and inspiring people we are. As a psychotherapist one ting I know is that you can not imagine what people have been through and what they have made of it. Start to imagine that we are all stronger than we think and that we are underestimating ourselves.
Research cited from 'Upside; the new science of post-traumatic growth' by Jim Rendon