• Post-Traumatic Growth and Dialectical Thinking

    Flower-In-AsphaltThe first week of December I was visiting my kids and grandkids in the Pacific Northwest for an early Christmas with my husband.

    On December 30, I was undergoing brain surgery for what had been diagnosed as a glioma surrounding my brain stem.

    Doctors considered my brain tumor to be inoperable because of the location. The purpose of the surgery was to take 20% for biopsy purposes. And for those of you unfamiliar with the term glioma, let’s just say the diagnosis was  stop-you-in-your-tracks kind of news. Not good.

    On January 19th, I’m still awaiting final biopsy results.

    If one thing is true about life, it offers adversity at every turn.In fact, recent data from the National Institute of Mental Health reports that 6 out of 10 women and 5 out of 10 men will face one or more major crises in their lifetime. But perhaps in concentrating on victory in overcoming adversity, we miss the journey–the opportunity to learn from our pain.

    Resilience and growth are products of struggle.

    Recognizing both the good and the bad in our circumstances is called dialectical thinking. And this type of thinking is key to growth and moving forward in pain. In fact, the military has discovered that focusing on post-traumatic GROWTH in more effective than focusing on coping skills. But why?

    Struggle teaches us new skills. Surprising new research in the field of post-traumatic growth has evidenced that it is not the absence of negative outcomes in the aftermath of trauma that marks the path of growth, but rather, that both positive and negative symptoms signify the very cognitive processes that characterize growth (Tedeshi and Calhoun, 2004). In our vulnerability, we find new strength.

    Struggle helps us build confidence. When we feel our path is blocked, we are forced to find new connections. Deep within the human soul, we have the desire to grow, to become better, to move beyond where we are to the next level. This is only achieved as we work through adversity. Struggle helps us build confidence as we face adversity and growth THROUGH our challenges.

    Over the past few weeks, I’ve been challenged with a life-threatening diagnosis, followed by a period of waiting for the results of my final biopsy. Weeks of waiting. As a woman of faith, I’ve been forced to look at who I believe God to really be in my life–trustworthy or not.

    My struggle hasn’t been fun, but it’s brought me new perspective.  And it’s given me new opportunities to encourage others–for which I’m extremely grateful. No matter what my situation, I’ve always been able to find reasons for gratitude.

    What about YOU? How have you grown through adversity? How has acknowledging both the positive and negative in the challenging moments of your life helped you move forward?






3 Responsesso far.

  1. Heather Walker says:

    My struggle has been to understand a diagnosis of “mild, global cerebral profusion deficits” which is some type of brain abnormality, related to reduced blood flow to the brain. It has ignited a deep interest in psychoneuroimmunology and how trauma affects our brains and bodies and how the brain is able to change and improve.

    • admin says:

      I hope you’re finding answers, Heather.

      • Heather Walker says:

        I am, thank you, my case is/has been taught at Harvard Medical School in the past to students and once in Australia to medical professionals. I don’t understand it all but I trust God’s plan for me and that takes precedence above everything. Articles like yours provide additional “puzzle pieces” and deepen my own understanding of myself and my experience (ie learning of dialectical thinking). Thanks for your post!

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