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Post Traumatic Growth – Why Recovery is the Best Revenge

Updated: Jul 16, 2019


By definition, revenge is quite harsh. It means to inflict hurt or harm on someone for an injury or wrong done to someone else. For this post, I would like to alter the definition slightly in the following way: to avenge oneself by retaliating through healing, recovery and self-care. Pretty powerful and empowering alteration, isn’t it?


Photo by Geralt on Pixabay

In response to some of my recent posts, I’ve received a lot of support, feedback, acknowledgment and validation. Speaking with one of my therapist friends, she told me about a relatively new concept called Post-Traumatic Growth (PTG). PTG is a theory that explains a kind of transformation following trauma. It was developed by psychologists Richard Tedeschi, PhD, and Lawrence Calhoun, PhD, in the mid-1990s. PTG holds that people who endure psychological struggle following adversity can often see positive growth afterward.

The following information is taken from the American Psychological Association in an article written by Lorna Collier, November 2016 entitled:

Growth After Trauma: Why are some people more resilient than others—and can it be taught? click here for the complete article

"People develop new understandings of themselves, the world they live in, how to relate to other people, the kind of future they might have and a better understanding of how to live life," says Tedeschi.

"PTG is sometimes considered synonymous with resilience because becoming more resilient as a result of struggle with trauma can be an example of PTG—but PTG is different from resilience, says Kanako Taku, PhD, associate professor of psychology at Oakland University.

“Someone who is already resilient when trauma occurs won't experience PTG because a resilient person isn't rocked to the core by an event and doesn't have to seek a new belief system. Less resilient people, on the other hand, may go through distress and confusion as they try to understand why this terrible thing happened to them and what it means for their world view,” explains Tedeschi.

To evaluate whether and to what extent someone has achieved growth after a trauma, psychologists use a variety of self-report scales. One that was developed by Tedeschi and Calhoun is the Post-Traumatic Growth Inventory (PTGI) (Journal of Traumatic Stress, 1996). It looks for positive responses in five areas:

• Appreciation of life.

• Relationships with others.

• New possibilities in life.

• Personal strength.

• Spiritual change.

“The scale is being revised to add new items that will expand the "spiritual change" domain, says Tedeschi. This is being done ‘to incorporate more existential themes that should resonate with those who are more secular’ as well as reflect cross-cultural differences in perceptions of spirituality.”

“There appear to be two traits that make some more likely to experience PTG: openness to experience and extraversion. That's because people who are more open are more likely to reconsider their belief systems, and extroverts are more likely to be more active in response to trauma and seek out connections with others,” says Tedeschi. (end of article for this post)

All of us have experiences in life which have an effect on our mental, emotional, physical, psychological and spiritual well-being. It is not for others to judge our reactions and responses to those experiences. Everyone has a different frame of reference and by seeking help from professionals when we need assistance contributes to our growth, introspection and the possibility for change and improvement.

I find the most interesting statement in this article is this: “Someone who is already resilient when trauma occurs won't experience PTG because a resilient person isn't rocked to the core by an event and doesn't have to seek a new belief system. Less resilient people, on the other hand, may go through distress and confusion as they try to understand why this terrible thing happened to them and what it means for their world view,” explains Tedeschi.

The reference “rocked to the core” resonates with me completely as well as having to seek a new belief system. Oftentimes when trauma is experienced, our belief system has gotten so messed up and out of whack that it can take quite some time to realize we may never understand WHY the trauma occurred. Understanding WHY helps us to process and proceed with what happened and, in this case, distress and confusion results from not being able to understand WHY. This can be a continual thought-process-loop because it is human nature to want to understand WHY. It is only by accepting what has happened, acknowledging that we can make a choice on how to react and respond THEN letting go of understanding that we are able to move forward. This was one of the hardest things I had to learn: I would never understand WHY what happened. Also, I had to learn it didn’t happen to me (I was not a victim), I was just part of the process to have the experience and learn from it.

So why is “recovery the best revenge”? Healing, growing and recovering can be threatening to some people. Our growth can cause a sense of discomfort to those around us; they don’t know how to handle it, they lash out, they react and respond in ways that are in-character or out-of-character. It can be unpredictable, uncomfortable and may cause us to become triggered as well. Our personal growth can be difficult for others because they want us to stay right where we are; stuck, predictable and manageable. When they feel like they can’t control either the situation or us, then they become triggered and this can manifest in a variety of ways. It is something to be aware of and be prepared for.

I have a theory that relationships are like three-legged races. You choose your partner, tie your middle legs together and then set off to the finish line. All along the way, you have to communicate with each other to determine the pace; do you need to slow down or speed up, do something differently or establish consistency? What needs to happen so that you can finish the race? It is NOT a competition however there is a big reward at the finish line, if you make it; YOU HAVE WON! You aren’t competing with others and you aren’t supposed to be competing with each other. It is a team effort; respecting and honoring what you need as well as the other person. You must listen, calibrate and connect all along the way. It is a continuous process of evolution of each person and the dynamics between the partners. When a disconnect occurs then a decision has to be made.

Will you continue an unhealthy tie, or will you break it? If the decision is made to cut the tie, then it is up to you to decide if you want to continue the race. The race becomes a little different at that point. You may have cut the tie to finish the race with someone else. You may have cut the tie because priorities change.




You may have cut the tie because you needed freedom from a detrimental situation. No matter why you have made the decision to cut the tie, you now have a different decision to make: do you want to continue to the finish line?

If your answer is yes, then at that point, there is a change and a conversion that takes place. The race then transforms into a journey of personal growth, healing, introspection and recovery. Those things and people you cut ties with may still continue to try and get you off the path. They will appear when you least expect it. They will materialize, verbalize and help you realize that you made the right decision for you.


Recovery is the best revenge because it is what feeds your soul, helps you react and respond in healthy ways while keeping you in alignment, leading with love and compassion. Always remember, this is your race, your journey, your path. It doesn’t matter what others think, say or do; pessimists, naysayers, bullies, narcissists, tormentors, harassers...they all have a race, a journey and a path as well.


Lead with love, continue with your head up, your heart full and your spirit soaring. Allow your light to always shine even in dark places. YOU are the one on this journey and you don’t owe anyone anything except yourself.



Wake up in the morning and feel anything is possible!


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