An angry letter against Post-Traumatic Growth

There is so much toxic positivity going around, everywhere I see. 

“Make mistakes and learn from it.”  “Face a failure and grow from it.” 

Why should an unfavorable incident be a source of self improvement? Also, what is this obsession with growth! What if mistakes happen, failures happen, and nothing good ever comes out of them? Does that make life less worth living or does that make the painful experience any less painful? This is just a rubbish way to see things, a stupid defence that tries to distract us from the reality that we are inherently vulnerable and that it is part of being alive. Why should painful experiences serve as launch pads to our successes? It’s almost similar to saying, “You won the nobel prize, now is an opportunity to un-grow a little bit.” Or “You have gained wealth, now is time for you to envision your step by step growth towards abject poverty.” Why should one life experience direct us to an opposite life experience for no sane reason?

The desire to construct a meaningful outcome from a painful event is immensely pressurising. Having experienced trauma doesn’t make you strong just like recovering from a fever doesn’t make you healthy. Survival doesn’t equal strength. It would do a lot of good to all trauma survivors if responders stop saying, “But it is your life experiences that made you resilient and strong. You should  celebrate your strength. See how it has shaped you into the wonderful person you are today”. No, trauma doesn’t make anyone resilient. It is because of one’s resilience that they survive trauma and live to speak about it. Not the other way around. 

And I hate this concept of “post-traumatic growth”.😒. Trauma wasn’t an opportunity for me to grow. Trauma stunted my growth, made me lose parts of myself, and feel stuck in an endless horror. There is no growth post trauma, just a reclamation of healthy growth that should’ve happened in the absence of trauma. Don’t romanticise pain! Also stop victim blaming. Everybody responds to trauma in different ways. Some might bounce back with minimal damages while others might feel stuck for years. It is just based on individual differences and has little to do with being strong or weak, or morally right or wrong. This subliminal cultural messaging that we should become whole, move away from our trauma, one-up the abuser, and gain social, professional, psychological, and financial profits is just an unrealistic expectation. If someone can do it, great. But it shouldn’t be the yard stick to understand trauma recovery or measuring growth. Some painful experiences are just that- nothing good can come out of them and it is not the role of the victim to perform their healing in the most cliched, socially agreed-upon way. First, just the acceptance that bad things happen and nothing good can come out of them is so important to really feel the pain instead of rationalising and building defensive behaviours around them. I propose we do away with post-traumatic growth as an expectation and replace it with post-traumatic discovery. It is a discovery of the lost versions of ourselves, of the roads not taken, and the yearning we still hold. What we do with these discoveries is up to the individual. The idea of growth is so entrenched in modern obsession with productivity. I refuse to accept it as healthy. 

I’ve been internalising this stupid messaging for way too long, and it is time for me to let it go.


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