Pain, Traumatic Events, Hemingway, and Diamonds
Do traumatic experiences only harm us? Can they be beneficial in some way as well? Can they make us better, stronger, more resilient? That’s the question referenced in a recent article published by cove.org. The article discusses the concept of post-traumatic stress in the military while offering another way to look at the issue. It’s a sensitive topic, for sure. Traumatic events, especially in the military, are frequently associated with Post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), which is a terrible illness that affects many service members and their families. I know this from personal experience and from working with many of my military families.
But…and it’s a fair question, does all traumatic stress lead to a “disorder”? Are we overlooking the positive personal growth that can arise when individuals are put through some of life’s ultimate tests? Perhaps Ernest Hemingway had it right in A Farewell to Arms: “The world breaks everyone, and afterward, some are strong at the broken places.” (Remember, he was an ambulance driver on the Italian Front).
As the article points out, General Mathis thinks we might be.
I see something similar in my line of work. While divorce is not life and death in the literal sense, for a lot of people, it might as well be. I don’t need to tell you that the end of a relationship can bring with it an enormous amount of emotional pain. But I’ve seen clients come through that pain, and build much better lives for themselves. I don’t advocate for divorce, but I think people deserve to be happy, be treated well, be in healthy relationships, and they deserve the opportunity to build better days ahead.
I’ve seen many clients move from a bad place, riddled with guilt and low self-esteem, to make great and happy lives for themselves. It’s really amazing what people can do to transform themselves in through traumatic experiences like divorce. I think of my mom, a stay-at-home mother with little more than a high school diploma who became an early childhood special educator with a Master’s Degree. I’m very proud her for accomplishing that.
Yes, traumatic life events can do a lot of harm, but they can also do a lot of good. Timothy S. Grover, professional athletic trainer for NBA legends like Dwayne Wade, Kobe Bryant, and Michael Jordan, puts it like this “pressure can bust pipes, but it can also create diamonds.”