Conversations with Leonie: Post Traumatic Growth
Thanks in advance for reading my email. I am a 20-year-old male who has just started an electrical apprenticeship. I am having a very hard time at the minute. I am working under guys who are nasty and love being nasty. I have just broken up with my girlfriend who I found out was cheating on me for over 8 months with one of my mates. I’m not coping too well and drinking and smoking too much. My dad has been a sparky since he was a teen and says hard times build character and makes us well rounded, but he did his apprenticeship with my Pop and so there was none of this ‘giving the new guy a hard time’ going on for him. He milked the whole ‘I’m the boss’s son’ and he openly says this to me. One thing is good though because my mum reminds him of this constantly when he starts crowing about his “hard yards”. He had family and money, a dad in the business and an easy road to his first house. I’m so sad and just trying to get through the day and then all this stuffing me around for a laugh happens all bloody day.
All my life I get told, this will make a man of you, this will build character, this or that bad thing is all part of life. I just don’t believe life should be this hard. Do we really have to go through hell like bullying and breakups and just suck everything up so we can say we are well rounded and solid?
How does a guy get over all this stuff with his guts intact? No name please.
Name withheld / Mango Hill
This is a complex question and so the answer may be somewhat complex so just bear with me. The first thing is that I would say a resounding NO to deliberately making a person’s life harder in some misguided attempt to build character. Life is usually hard enough. Having said that, parents that continually pave the way for their children, supplying everything, sorting out all their problems and so on are not preparing their children for independent life and they are certainly not helping their child to build resilience. So, in my view there is some truth to adversity helping us become more well-rounded and it is also wrong to create hardships to make this happen.
Here I want to talk to you about a concept known as Post Traumatic Growth. Back in the 1970’s Ilya Priogine won a Nobel Prize for his work which examined how complex open systems (including us humans – the ultimate open system) evolve and get better.
He explained that suffering including emotional and mental turmoil causes stress that pushes us humans past our individual tolerance or threshold of what our systems can handle. When our tolerance for what is happening is too weak, we can go into chaos and reorganisation. It’s this reorganisation that sees our old system disappear and be replaced by a new and stronger system. Chaos can be caused by any stress that is too much to handle such as bereavement, heartache, abuse and bullying and so on. So, what does chaos look like?
It often manifests as:
- Feelings of hopelessness and things never getting better
- Gnawing stomach and needing to sit on the toilet all the time
- Anxiety and depression
- Loss appetite
- Racing mind– should have done this or that – if only I said….
Now after chaos, the open system either fails (Post traumatic stress disorder, suicide and so on) or it reorganises into a better stronger model than the one that was in place before which is of course, known as personal growth.
I don’t believe we have to give this process a helping hand and as I said before life it hard enough. I would have you consider the course of redress available to you at work to hold these cowboys accountable for the workplace bullying you are enduring.
Also, if an organisation arranged your apprenticeship, you are well within your rights to speak to them about your placement and your expectation of being placed in a safe environment free of harassment.
Til next week
Counsellor | Author | Columnist | Radio Commentator | Trainer | Mediator
Leonie is a Qualified Counsellor, Trainer, Mediator and Early childhood Educator who is also a Justice of the Peace.
Specialising in Relationship Counselling, Personal Counselling and Employment Coaching.
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by Leonie Schilling
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