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Consequential Growth

In Fitness/Health, General Psychology, Happiness, Mindfulness, Well-being on Thursday, 14 February 2013 at 11:12

Consequential Growth

By: Timothy J. Wachtel

Written for the Texas Association for Adult Development & Aging

I’m older now. A little more pale, a little more frail, but I got my wits. The ebbs and flows of life have taken their course and have strewn me all over the place. It didn’t seem fair then and it doesn’t seem fair now. What do I have to show for it? I still try to keep my head held high and I smile a lot. Boy, life sure has a way of serving up its fair share of bumps and bruises . . . kinda glad in a way.

*****************************************

Have you ever found yourself in this reflective space? Have you ever not found yourself in this place? I think that everyone can agree that any individual who reaches the midpoint of adulthood and beyond is never immune to the trials and tribulations of life. It comes with the travel package. There always tend to be those pinnacle times of life; the times where the emotions get bruised, the spirit gets suffocated, the isolation looms large, the mind runs wild, and the rug from underneath you is no longer there. These life events and novel experiences come in many forms, as you very well know. Divorce, death of a family member, religious conversion, relocation, job transfer, job loss, injury or disease, natural disasters, kids move out, spouse goes off to war, traumatic stress, conflict; the list seems forever endless.

Is there a silver lining to all of this? I believe the answer is emphatically YES! We oftentimes don’t realize the goodness in these types of life events while we’re a part of the process. And it is a process; these situations, events, and experiences have a necessary starting point and oftentimes tend to be phases or stages throughout the process. Some people reach the productive end to the process, while others don’t quite reach the same successful terminal point. Today, science is doing more than ever before to inform us of these types of processes. More and more research is demonstrating evidence of the fact that many of these types of inexplicable occurrences in life result in very positive outcomes.

Research has found that individuals going through “troubled waters” over the course of a significant period of their lives tend to develop a greater sense of altruism and resilience, many experience more satisfaction or well-being in their life, and still others are finally able to come to terms with the meaning of their life. Scientists and practitioners use a battery of different terms to identify some of these events, some of which include: critical life eventsposttraumatic growthstress-related growthspiritual emergencytransformational crisisposttraumatic positive adjustmentgrowth through adversity, and the positive outcomes of one’s battle with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

I recently came up with a term that I believe helps to encapsulate the upsides to many of the downsides of life. “Consequential Growth” is the term I use to describe the results of these processes. Consequential Growth seems to semantically emphasize the necessary consequences we oftentimes experience throughout the growth process. The term broadly identifies the “dark nights” and the cognitive, spiritual, and emotional hardships we face during these times of duress.

Many books have been written on the positive results of these types of experiences in one’s life. Notably, the individual and collective works of Calhoun, Tedeschi, and Joseph talk much to these processes; especially in terms of Posttraumatic Growth. Moreover, many naturalistic and experimental research studies have found conclusive evidence of consequential growth. They inform us that those who are able to grow through their perceived negative experiences oftentimes maintain a more positive orientation toward life, are generally more optimistic, and tap into healthy coping strategies to get through the hardship(s). These individuals often have strong social circles and are seen by others as stronger and wiser as a result of going throughthe consequential growth process, even though they never signed-up for the turbulence.

The aging process is indeed complex. Life situations can catapult us right off our comfortable life. This is the stuff of character, wisdom, virtue, transformation, transcendence, higher consciousness, emotional resiliency, generativity and care for your fellow human beings. I wish you well on your next tumble.

References:

Tedeschi, Richard G.; Lawrence G. Calhoun (1995). Trauma and Transformation: Growing in the Aftermath of Suffering. SAGE Publications, Inc.
Joseph, Stephen (2011). What Doesn’t Kill Us: The New Psychology of Posttraumatic Growth. Basic Books
Timothy “Tim” J. Wachtel

Executive Director

The Center for Optimal Adult Development

www.optimaladult.org

Retrieved from: http://www.optimaladult.org/index.cfm/knowledge-center/coad-news-notes/consequential-growth/

 

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  1. Can you talk now?

    Best,

    Phil

    Phil C. Solomon

    Cell | (404) 849-8065

    LinkedIn | Phil C. Solomon

    Twitter | @philcsolomon

    About.me | about.me/philcsolomon

    Blog | http://www.philcsolomon.com

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