"In healthcare, we've always been more interested in identifying dysfunction than superior functioning," says Jack Tsai, PhD, assistant professor of psychiatry at Yale School of Medicine, who has studied PTG in veterans. "Only in the last few decades have we begun redefining health as not just the absence of disease but also the promotion of well-being."
In a previous job, I worked with people who'd been diagnosed with chronic conditions and they often surprised me with their belief that their diagnosis changed their life for the better. Over time, I came to see that although negative at first, they changed in ways they never would have without it. They re-prioritized. They were forced to become healthier in other ways. They told people what they thought, what they wanted and what they meant to them.
In many ways, we do a disservice to people who have "bad things" happen to them because we all fear they could happen to us and we want to distance ourselves from it. So, the sooner they "get over it" the better.
How does the growth happen? It's a change of path usually, and if it's an external force, people must change, even if they don't want to. So they adapt, and it can open the door to more change. Maybe it's the heart attack that makes them realize that they want to stay healthy for their grandkids. And then it becomes wanting to spend more time with the grandkids and moving closer to them. Or it's a divorce that forces a career change.
Americans need to break up with their fear of failure. It can make us better. It can make us stronger. But first we must admit that we all fail and we can all recover -- resiliency is in short supply, in my opinion.