In what ways can traumatic events be opportunities for growth?

Expert Answers
kateanswers eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Recovering from a traumatic experience may inspire a person to go "above and beyond" rather than just attaining the quality of life held before the trauma. For many, the first goal in recovery is to just get back to normal and learn to cope with the anxiety or fatigue that is common in a Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. Just as physical bodies in motion tend to stay in motion, a person on a path of emotional and  mental growth develops momentum, too.

Experiencing trauma can radically alter a person's life. Our worldviews, behaviors, and even values may be changed by the experience of death, injury, or prolonged high-stress situations. Psychologists have found that there are structural changes in the brains of people with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, which often results in the affected individual being on "high alert" for the threat of further trauma. The brain adapts to protect itself. 

The lessons a person learns in the process of recovering from trauma may take them "beyond" the lifestyle they considered normal before experiencing trauma. For example, one thing many people with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder struggle with is a feeling of security or safety, often meaning they need to feel totally in control of and aware of their surroundings. Gradually working through this anxiety and learning that it is okay to not be 100% in control of your own surroundings is a big step. When someone who has suffered trauma can expand their comfort zone and feel safe without needing to be in control of every aspect of their environment, many doors open for them. Some people have found that travelling provides both a challenge (getting out of the comfort zone) and a sense of fulfillment from having accepted and overcome the challenge. Positive experiences on the road to recovery build momentum and inspire an individual to keep trying new things!

Another feeling many people who have suffered trauma report is a sense of "waking up" to what the world or certain people may be like. While this can become a source of anxiety, learning to live with new-found knowledge can inspire people to become passionate advocates for themselves and others who suffer similar traumas.