Suffering: The Creative, Positive Force

As Terry Waite, hostage in Lebanon for four years has shared, “Suffering is universal. You attempt to subvert it so that it does not have a destructive, negative effect. You turn it around so that it becomes a creative, positive force.”

Suffering is universal. You can turn it around so that it becomes a creative, positive force.

Mental health experts call the process of putting the pieces together after a traumatic experience, “post-traumatic growth,” a term coined by two scientists in the 1990’s.

According to a 2014 Psychology Today blog post, though trauma — rape, physical abuse, sexual abuse, emotional abuse, torture and other forms — can be devastating, some individuals have found the power to harness the most challenging aspects of their trauma and use it for positive change.

Three General Benefits of Trauma

The author of the story, U.K.-based professor of psychology Dr. Stephen Joseph, shared three ways in which psychological functioning increases after trauma:

  • Relationships are enhanced
  • Self-perceptions are modified
  • Life philosophies change



The Five Specific Forms of Posttraumatic Growth

Not everyone can overcome the pain of trauma, but for those who do, their growth and success usually happens in the following five ways:

A sense of new opportunities emerge from the struggle

Trauma can be a reset button and a creative spark – you’re forced to push beyond your limiting beliefs and find a better reality. You’re motivated to stretch your neck higher, to grow and to move forward. Standing still will only hurt you.

For many, this breakdown is a breakthrough that leads to a new set of more positive experiences. You see opportunities and create solutions that benefit everyone.

A deepening of relationships with specific people in your life

You need to heal. You need to connect. Those who connect deeply and engage with others are the best types of leaders.  A leader inspires others through his/her vision, and for that vision to motivate to action, we need to connect with it.

Going through trauma and working with it restores your trust in yourself and everyone involved in the process. 

Sincere and authentic leaders motivate us because we want to be led by someone who sees us for who we are, not who they want us to be.

Going through trauma and working with it restores your trust in yourself and everyone involved in the process. Trust is simply the foundation in every human interaction. It´s a currency always lacking in every industry, and its absence is the reason why most relationships falter.

An increased sense of one’s own strength

You know how strong you are. Compared to what you suffered, anything seems like a walk in the park. Along with this sense of your own strength is the ability to see more clearly the strength in others. It’s like the old saying, “If you spot it, you got it.”

For example, you may have learned, from a place of authenticity, that a coworker or friend can be trusted when you’re dealing with difficult challenges. You know who your friends are, and value their strengths and support. You, in turn, wish to support them in the experiences that challenge them.

You have to nurture a strength-based confidence from your inner self, not an outer ego or arrogance.

Remember, you have to nurture a strength-based confidence from your inner self, not an outer ego or arrogance. When you do, your confidence radiates as charisma, not as arrogance or fear.  And this true charisma inspires everyone to glow and to grow.

Through your trauma, you exchange a small lightbulb with a large one that shines throughout the workplace because your mind and spirit have overcome and prevailed.

A greater appreciation for life in general

You appreciate life and see it through a new paradigm. You learn that we are not our thoughts, we are processors of thoughts. As a result, you gain more control over your mind.

When we learn how to build powerful coping mechanisms to help us handle stress and traumatic experiences, we can learn how to appreciate life in a more complete way.

This new perspective affects your work, too, because you learn to appreciate the people around you in new ways. This helps the workplace as a whole because nothing motivates your team more than a leader who appreciates them.

A deepening of your spiritual life

Trauma pushes our mind into finding answers we might not have looked for before — spiritual answers

Spirituality puts our life in the context of a bigger purpose and bigger picture. Our life becomes more than just us.

We’re not just stuck inside our tiny heads – we realize we have the entire universe in which to collaborate and succeed.

(Source: University of North Carolina at Asheville)

Positive, But Still Painful

We believe trauma can be a powerful positive force in your life. However, it’s important to remember that trauma is difficult. Even though it can produce greatness, not everyone can overcome it. The experts at UNC-Asheville remind us that:

  • Just because individuals experience growth doesn’t mean they avoid suffering
  • Traumatic events are never good, despite any growth you experience from it
  • Not everyone experiences post-traumatic growth

We meet challenges throughout our lives,  and it is up to us if they will break us or make us.

Going through trauma is hard, but if we’re committed to overcoming it, it can transform our ability to connect, transform and live our lives.

For more information and support to navigate through your challenges, visit

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