Posttraumatic Growth 714.2

I’ve been fascinated, awestruck, and intimidated by disturbingly vivid real-time images of the destructive force of shifting earth and massive waves of water.

Technology has given us an unprecedented ability to experience every nuance of Mother Nature’s show of power. The visuals have an unreal science fiction quality that can cause us to distance ourselves from the tidal waves of human suffering still ravaging Japan and much of the observing world.

Beyond the thousands of men, women, and children drowned, crushed by debris, or buried by their own roofs or nearby hillsides, millions more who lost loved ones, treasured homes, possessions, and their sense of security face a possible life sentence of pain and fear.

The good news is that there’s lots of scientific evidence that most survivors will eventually escape their dark dungeons of grief and despair and that many will actually live happier, more fulfilling lives. This evidence validates Nietzsche’s observation, “What does not kill me, makes me stronger,” as well as Shakespeare’s sentiment, “Sweet are the uses of adversity, / Which like the toad, ugly and venomous, / Wears yet a precious jewel in his head.”

The bad news is that the positive predictions of psychologists, philosophers, and poets are not true for everyone. Each victim must face a personal crossroad: One road leads to a lifetime of posttraumatic stress and emotional instability, the other to posttraumatic growth resulting in a greater appreciation of life, heightened self-confidence, more rewarding relationships, and new priorities about a purposeful life.

Which road they take will be determined by the moral courage to be optimistic, the wisdom to accept what can’t be changed, and the loving support of family and friends.

This is Michael Josephson reminding you that character counts.

* To read more about the theory of posttraumatic growth, see the Wikipedia entry and the articles cited therein.

Comments 1

  1. “moral courage to be optimistic”
    That is an interesting concept mixing nature vs. nurture. Perhaps it is the current trend of displaced personal responsibility to take action to improve ones condition, but I have seen tragedy befall both optimistic and pessimistic people, and most often I see optimism lose to pessimism, or pessimism becomes “reinforced”.
    I have come to the glum conclusion that most people’s nature changes little after early adulthood. It seems to require a comprehensive change in circumstances for extended periods of time to truly change a person.
    I must, however, add that I can witness to the benefits optimism and taking personal responsibility for improving your outlook and conditions, and wish the human capacity to do so was greater than it seems to be.
    I just get confused sometimes how I should feel and behave towards pessimism, should I avoid it or suffer its presence to try and help? I can and have made improvements to peoples situations, only to have them rapidly focus on some new negative element in their lives. Was that wasted time?
    Hard questions and not entirely relevant to the tragedies unfolding in Japan. Though many tragedies all over the world play this out to greater or lesser extents all the time.

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