You don’t realize how resilient you really are until you find yourself in an extreme situation, and you have no choice but to face it with courage.
Every day different people go through unexpected experiences.
Sometimes, these experiences are extremely painful and traumatic, and they cause a lot of suffering in these people’s lives, as well as the lives of their friends, family, coworkers, and loved ones.
This is suffering that no one deserves. And often survivors say they would never wish this negative experience to happen to anyone else, even their worst enemy.
But somewhere in all that darkness people seem to find light.
Psychologists have discovered a phenomenon they call post-traumatic growth, which is defined as “a positive psychological change experienced as a result of the struggle with highly challenging life circumstances.”
It seems that people can sometimes be a whole lot more resilient than we think they can be. And it’s not uncommon for individuals who have experienced negative and traumatic events in their lives to transform those experiences into something positive, a kind of hidden gift or blessing.
I recently discovered an amazing talk on TED.com from Susan Kramer titled “The Best Gift I Ever Survived.” This is a great example of the type of attitude and resilience that can be found in many survivors of negative and painful experiences.
I think Kramer’s story can inspire anyone. We all go through times in life where we struggle and feel helpless. And knowing that other people can take a situation and turn it completely around gives us the motivation to do the same in our own lives.
As we know now from a lot of research in psychology and neuroscience, how we process memories can be very flexible.
This means that even if we normally associate our past experiences with a lot of negativity and suffering, we can change the way we think about them in a way to make them positive and growth-oriented.
This is known as cognitive restructuring in psychology. The basic idea is that we can re-program how our minds think and view our experiences, and thereby train ourselves to have more positive thought patterns vs. negative thought patterns.
Being able to view our experiences in this way is what builds resilience in the long-term. That doesn’t mean we never experience negativity in our lives, it just means we learn how to bounce back faster and stronger.
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