Michaela Haas introduced me to the science of posttraumatic growth in her book Bouncing Forward: Transforming Bad Breaks into Breakthroughs. In it, she interviews twelve people who have experienced this including Maya Angelou and Temple Grandin.
Haas has been a practicing Buddhist for twenty years, and those teachings are apparent. But she also turns to medical and psychological experts for scientific validation.
Contrary to popular thought, having a positive result come out of trauma is not a rarity. A leading researcher, psychologist Richard Tedeschi, says as many as ninety percent of survivors report at least one aspect of posttraumatic growth, such as a renewed appreciation for life or the discovery of their heart’s purpose. They gain personal strength and deeper relationships with others.
As has been written before, most notably by Viktor Frankl, it is not what happens to you that is important. It is how you choose to view it.
Haas concludes her book with five proven strategies to overcome adversity. In case they sound too commonplace or simple, she again gives the research that backs them up.
The first is meditation. Studies show that at least 12 minutes a day is necessary in order to be effective. And it should be a daily practice, not sporadic or occasional.
The next strategy is appreciation. Haas advice is to write down three things you are grateful for every day. These can be as small as a beam of sunshine. Writing them down is important. Better yet is to express gratitude to someone in person.
Connecting with our capacity to love is vital. First we must love ourselves by giving ourselves the care we need: sleep, healthy food, and physical exercise. The mantra Haas suggests is powerful:
“May I enjoy happiness and the causes of happiness.
May I be free from suffering and the causes of suffering.”
After we can love ourselves, we can send love out into the world to others, eventually even to those who have harmed us.
Finally, integral to the healing process is connection. Listen to others. Everyone wants to be heard.
I’ve been lucky enough not to have experienced a major trauma, but I’ve weathered plenty of minor ones. I do try to cultivate gratitude when I am upset.
Which of Haas’ strategies most resonates with you?