In An Exercise to Help Your Team Overcome the Trauma of the Pandemic (September 1, 2020), Lisa Zigarmi and Davia Larson remind us:
How we cope with this trauma will define our inner lives, our businesses, our communities, and our world. As businesses and employees resume operations, how do we collectively brave a changing work environment.
They suggest that the concept of “Post-Traumatic Growth” can be helpful in coping with the stresses, suffering, and changes from the pandemic. They tell us that Post-Traumatic Growth (PTG) has been defined as “the transformative positive change that can occur as a result of a struggle with great adversity.” PTG is the experience of growth that follows from struggle in the aftermath of trauma.
Research shows that people who find meaning in trauma report: ⠀
- An increased sense of their own strength and capacities to prevail.
- Improved relationships with others, including a greater sense of belonging.
- A greater sense of compassion.
- And an increased sense of purpose and appreciation for life.
- Examples of post-traumatic growth at work would include losing a job or missing out on a promotion, but then pursuing a new role that better aligns with one’s strengths and work objectives. Or, an employee who witnessed ethical violations and subsequently creates organizational systems that protect whistleblowers. (Zagarmi/Larson)
In my experience as a pastoral minister for the past forty years, two important words come to mind to sum up the human tragedy in this pandemic: Suffering and Change. These words can be great conversation starters as you tell your own stories that can lead to Post-Traumatic Growth.
Think about it, the pandemic has affected every aspect of our lives worldwide: physically, emotionally, economically, socially, and spiritually.
Suffering and change don’t stand alone. They are complex experiences that are usually accompanied by self-doubt, fear, anxiety, loss of confidence, overwhelm, and mistrust of institutions that are supposed to help. I have found that some very religious people have taken suffering and change in stride. They believed that suffering in itself would bring them closer to God. They looked for the good that could come from suffering and believed that their dependence on God would carry the day. They were in the minority, however.
Most people I worked with could not reconcile suffering with a loving God. Some relied on a belief that some kind of evil spirit was at work. Or they simply succumbed to their suffering to depress their spirits and shift them into despair.
Neither approach adequately addresses the impact of human suffering. Aside from spiritualizing suffering, or justifying it as part of the human condition, suffering remains as a dead-end for many. It can trigger a victim mentality, the why me syndrome. Its results are felt as final and absolute. Often those in distress are not able to know the true benefits that might result from suffering, as the future unfolds. The results of suffering thus have a life of their own and can lead to despair.
With the issue of change, I have discovered that most people liked what they perceived as good changes and disliked what they thought were bad changes. These ran the gamut from long-held social or spiritual practices, to shifts in relationships, to the loss of loved ones in chronic illness or death, or even to a change in elected political leaders.
I found that when people thought of change as a switch that was thrown, change became an end it itself, like suffering. It left them either in gloomy darkness that blinded them to the hope that change yet could bring, or an ethereal light that was similar to infatuation and that kept them from being ready for a let-down.
I have two important questions to lead into PTG: What might suffering and change say to us if they had messages to deliver? What might this pandemic be trying to teach us?
Could suffering and change in the Covid pandemic be showing:
- How vulnerable we are;
- How undisciplined we can be;
- How creative we can be despite tragedy;
- How difficult being creative can be when we’re used to living unconsciously;
- How interdependent we are?
I’d like to suggest a direction we might take to prepare us to receive a positive message in this pandemic. What if we began our PTG with these six steps:
- Admit your anger, hurt, or dislike for the persons and events that have hurt you.
- Forgive, which means letting go of judgment of yourself or others.
- Have gratitude for your faith and the resources you do have.
- Take better care of yourself. You are not the supreme caregiver of others.
- Stop hoping that whatever is triggering your suffering will suddenly go away.
- Remind yourself that you have done all you can under the circumstances.
After these six steps, you will able to ask yourself five questions;
- What messages through suffering and change do I hear that give me hope?
- In what ways do I value life even more?
- How can I better support my community?
- What positive self-care do I need to get me out of this funk?
- What sharing or advice might I offer other suffers in the midst of change?
By answering these we will learn something new about:
- how resilient we are,
- how wonderful our friends and family are,
- how trivial our complaints sometimes are,
- and how our spirits strengthen through adversity.
Need help to shift to Post-Traumatic Growth? Contact me at Michael@mpariselifecoach.com or 813-449-3904
©Michael Parise 2020