Absolutely everybody experiences a certain level of anxiety in our lives. For some people doing something new, speaking in public, going to an event or party, where we don’t know anyone, is anxiety provoking. Doing evaluations, exams or being tested out can be challenging. Usually we know we are uncomfortable and would prefer not to do it, but most people are able to do it anyway. When life is difficult, some people find it all too much and shut down, becoming paralysed and unable to process negative experiences. For those, who are unable to cope and find it so overwhelming they cannot face the challenge, this has become an anxiety disorder.
Trauma can affect us all, at one time or another: for some, way worse than others. We’ve all heard about Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). There is not as much emphasis placed however, upon Post Traumatic Growth. This is where we experience a challenge, a tragedy and traumatic event and we look to how and where we learn and grow from it. In positive psychology, this emphasis teaches us to focus upon what and how we change, and what we learn from these experiences.
Richard Tedeschi, psychologist, wrote The Handbook of Post Traumatic Growth: Research and Practice, and made an empirical study, concluding that suffering and trauma can indeed create positive change, in many differing contexts. What is interesting is that certain people have a predisposition for seeing the positive that comes from adversity and others do not. This subjective experience dictates the outcome of the event. And the good news is that we can all learn to shift our brain into experiencing things positively.
This is why some people rise above their suffering and it develops into an amazing experience and others do not. Think for example of Turia Pitt, who suffered horrifying burns during a marathon race and has become an incredible role model, N.S.W. Woman of the Year 2014, Interplast Ambassador, author and motivational speaker, teaching young people about body image.
Shawn Achor in his book “The Happiness Advantage” describes the difference between those that are able to rise above the challenge and those that cannot, as those who “define themselves not by what has happened to them, but by what they can make out of what has happened. They speak not just of bouncing back, but of bouncing forward.”
So, here we see how it is all about how we conceive tings in our mind. This week let us intend to notice how we make our stories in our mind. Do we choose to see our challenging experiences and think of how we can learn and grow from them? It is important to allow time to acknowledge and experience what has happened, but then it is just as important to reflect upon how those experiences will shape our lives for the future. Let us make the choice to be MINDFUL, and to see how we can become the best we can be, through taking the best approach, in our own mind.