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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.

This blog was originally posted on www.positiveEQ.com

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