Director’s Corner: Resilience and Posttraumatic Growth Following Trauma

Dr. Charles "Chip" Benight sitting on stairs


by Dr. Chip Benight



In this edition of the Director’s Corner, I wanted to focus on the concept of resilience and posttraumatic growth following trauma. Over the centuries, writers have described the human ability to overcome extreme adversity, or to be resilient. For many, resilience includes finding something positive that empowers you as you come to grips with what has happened following a trauma. As a result of the experience, some trauma survivors share that they have found meaning in the traumatic event, or that they have deepened their relationships with friends, family, colleagues, or with God. For others, the aftermath of a traumatic experience can be much different. Not everyone who is resilient reports something positive or meaningful coming from a tragic experience, yet they are able to cope with, overcome, and recover from the experience.

The key to overcoming trauma is developing resilience and finding the strength and support to move forward following the event. The Healing division of the Lyda Hill Institute for Human Resilience was created for just this purpose. The Veterans Health and Trauma Clinic supports Veterans who have experienced trauma with clinical services provided by trauma-trained clinicians. And Milestones Resilience Care offers a new model of care for trauma survivors, building resilience and empowering recovery through the development of psychological strength, physical well-being, connectedness, and purpose and meaning.

Finding hope and seeking something positive in a traumatic experience can be foundational for trauma survivors. In his memoir "Man's Search for Meaning," about surviving the horrors of Auschwitz, Viktor Frankl wrote that when we are reduced to complete helplessness, we can choose our own thoughts, and the key is love.

When we regularly see news reports, stare at our smartphone feeds, and constantly check our social media accounts, we see countless scenes or descriptions of suffering, cruelty, and just general negativity. All this negativity contributes to the challenges we face when trying to find the path to resilience that is so important to our mental well-being.

Frankl held on through absolutely unimaginable conditions by holding his wife in his mind and working on writing a book on how to help people in the future, all in his mind. I offer a thought as we approach this season of change. As winter recedes and makes way for the warm, life-giving arrival of spring, let us turn our focus toward spreading love, joy, and light. Let us seek out opportunities to support not only those we hold dear, but also those we have yet to meet. Let us be a beacon of hope, a steadfast presence, and a source of strength for those seeking to find their footing on the path to recovery. With every act of kindness and gesture of compassion, we have the power to make a difference and bring a renewed sense of purpose and meaning to those around us who for whatever reason may be suffering. In this season of growth and renewal, let us cultivate positivity and embrace our shared responsibility to create a world filled with joy, and remember that trauma recovery is a complex process that takes a community.  






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