Posttraumatic Growth: How to Change Perspective on a Bad Event

How can I feel like a bad thing that happened to me was actually a good thing?

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I was once delivering a workshop on resilience when someone asked me:

“How can I change perspective on a bad event? How can I feel like a bad thing that happened to me was actually a good thing?”

The truth is… you most likely can’t.

It’s unlikely I’ll ever look back on my back injury and say, “I’m so glad that happened.”

After all, I had the worst mental health year I’d ever had following that — and that was really. hard.

But there were also other things:

Like the fact that my injury taught me how to say no. I simply didn’t have the energy to do as much as I could before, so I had no choice but to start maintaining better boundaries… and I was pleasantly surprised to find that people didn’t mind as much as I’d imagined they would.

I had to start asking for help, and I realised there are a lot of people who don’t mind giving it.

My struggle with the way I was feeling that year also paved the way for my interest in finding practical, lasting ways to feel better: the kind of information I couldn’t find back then. And that eventually blossomed into my career.

So am I happy that I injured my back? Will I ever be? No.

But I also can’t say I’d change it even if I could. Because it’s part of my story now, and that means it made me who I am.

It was hard… and I learned from it.

I think we often think that changing perspective means switching one point of view out for the other.

But the best way to change perspective on a bad event is usually to zoom out — to take stock of whether there’s anything you gained, any way you grew, alongside all the hurt.

This is the essence of what Positive Psychology calls “post-traumatic growth”. That alongside trauma, we might recognise that we are not the victim of the experience, but rather the hero who made it through.

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