Have the bad things that have happened in your life made you a stronger person or have they scarred you forever? Tragedy and adversity can change an individual. Traumatic events can create disorders such as post-traumatic stress disorders and other problems, but it appears they can also produce growth and positive change. Research has suggested that traumatic events can produce positive growth for individuals in a number of areas, such as their ability to relate to others, their general appreciation of life, their ability to see new possibilities and changes in their spiritual life. People often show growth in some areas but not in others and rarely show growth in all areas.
If you are interested in learning more about how traumatic or life-altering events in your life may have produced growth for you, you can complete the Post-Traumatic Growth Inventory (PTGI). An online version of the inventory can be found on: www.helping.apa.org. This is an exercise that is available on the American Psychological Association website. The questionnaire asks you to identify life-altering events such as disability or job loss, indicate the time elapsed since the event occurred and answer a number of questions as to the degree to which you experience change as a result of the traumatic event. Your responses to the 21 questions may reflect growth in the five factors that the questionnaire looks at:
Your answers to these questions may change as you change, and you may want to redo this exercise 6 months or even a year down the road to see how your responses have changed.
Information contained in this exercise should not be used as a substitute for professional health and mental healthcare consultation. You can learn more information about post-traumatic growth by reviewing the complete report about how the PTGI was developed. Review "The Post-traumatic Growth Inventory: Measuring the Positive Legacy of Trauma" by Richard G. Tedeschi, Ph.D., and Lawrence G. Calhoun, Ph.D., in the Journal of Traumatic Stress, July 1996, Vol. 9, pp 455-471. A book was developed out of their work entitled "Post-traumatic Growth: Positive Changes in the Aftermath of Crisis," published in 1998 by Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.
If you're still interested in learning more about yourself, go to www.viacharacter.org. to complete a free survey that will help you to look at your character strengths. This survey is well researched. It has been used by Seligman and others as part of the resilience training program and has been incorporated into the work that we are doing in Scarborough, Maine, with the Scarborough Preparedness Project.