I’ve watched the Brene’ Brown documentary about her book, Dare to Lead, a few times. (It’s not actually a documentary – it’s Brene’ on the stage keynoting in 2019 but Netflix categorizes it as a documentary and I want you to be able to find it yourself if you haven’t seen it). One of my favorite and most relatable moments is when she is talking about how her work helps her on an airplane if she doesn’t want to talk. We all know that moment where we have to sit down next to a stranger and they lean over to us and ask the question, ‘So, what do you do?’ Brene’ hilariously recounts how, if she doesn’t want to engage with someone, she looks at them and says “I research shame. What do you do?” That moment of shock from the other individual is usually enough to end any further conversation.
I was a on a plane recently for a speaking engagement and upon answering that I was a speaker and consultant, was pressed for what I spoke about. My reply, “Post-traumatic Growth.”
‘Oh. That, um, sounds interesting.’ [eyes down and away from me]
To be fair, she asked me while taking up both armrests and just after I had finally situated all of my materials, put on my headphones, and was ready to get to work during the 4-hour flight. I knew what I was doing. I knew the response I’d get because I’ve gotten it plenty of times before.
I get that trauma is an uncomfortable subject. We aren’t raised to talk about it. We don’t use it in our day-to-day lexicon except usually in a serious, hushed whisper. We shake our heads sadly in acknowledgement of the poor soul we’re speaking about. Trauma. We just don’t feel ready to hear it and we sure don’t want to think about the trauma we’ve experienced in our own lives.
When I’m not annoyed about the armrest and the interruption to my routine, I answer the question quite differently. I provide a little ‘soft setup’ before I hit them with the T word. “I help people and organizations understand how to use their setbacks as catalysts for transformation. It’s a practice known as Post-Traumatic Growth and I’ve systematized it based on my experiences to help others.”
The truth is, in speaking about Post-Traumatic Growth, I don’t actually speak that much about trauma. My work isn’t a memoir of domestic violence, or an airing of my grievances over this system failure or that negative encounter, because beyond helping people understand that I both academically and intimately connect to my work, my work isn’t actually about trauma at all.
Post-traumatic Growth is about what happens after the trauma. In the dark, broken spaces of ruin that exists – sometimes on the outside, but always on the inside – there truly does lie opportunity for each of us. What I refer to as ‘getting out of the water’. And that opportunity is amazing, attainable, and applicable to every aspect of your life. Working through Post-Traumatic Growth steps recasts trauma and traumatic events so that we can also recast ourselves in the story: not as ‘victim, or even as ‘survivor’ but instead as the triumphant soul who not only endured a trauma in this life but found ways to leverage it to experience previously unimaginable growth. What I call “Thrivorship”.
If this all sounds interesting to you, there’s more to share and you can keep learning with me by signing up for my newsletter, checking out my coaching package, or dropping me a question at mylestogo.net.