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Exploring Post Traumatic Growth

The Thought Model: Post Traumatic Growth

There is a coaching model that is used to help clients (and anyone really) understand WHY they are having the results that they are currently having in their lives. It explains how the thoughts and feelings we are having around our circumstances produce our results, which makes up the experience we are having each day.

The diagram I like to use as a visual comes from Brooke Castillo of The Life Coach School. However, I want to expand on each concept in these blog posts using experiences with coaching and what I have gathered through my certification in Positive Psychology and Achology. Today we are going to explore Post Traumatic Growth, but first, let’s go through the basics of the thought model below:

Starting at the top:

(C) our circumstances trigger a thought, that thought (T) produces a feeling, now that feeling (F) generates an action (A) and that action produces our results (R). Now the reason why “Evidence” is hanging out over there, is because when we have a thought (and let’s say it’s coming from a place of fear for this example) that will drive our actions, and give us congruent results. Now that outcome is evidence that our thought was true.

So let’s say you were going to give a presentation (C)

You feel anxiety and tightness in your stomach (F)

You are sure it’s going to be a disaster, because you are a terrible public speaker, and who would care what you had to say anyway? (T)

(For me I usually recognize the FEELING before the THOUGHT, but it might be different for you)

Take note:

**Subconscious thought here being triggered by past experiences around not speaking well in public in the past, and/or around not being heard or understood** (Past R)

SO- you procrastinated because you were overwhelmed with the thought of it not being perfect, you pulled things together last minute, you realize that yes, it wasn’t perfect, you also didn’t have the time you would have liked to go over it. (A)

You struggle a bit through your presentation (R)

**AND EVEN IF IT WENT PRETTY WELL, you focus on the parts you struggled through, and now that is evidence to back up your original thought that you are” terrible at speaking in public.”

Let’s take the same situation but release “fear” and insert “love”:

You get asked to speak in public (C)

You remember that the last time you spoke it didn’t go so well (T)

You feel anxious and a tightness in your stomach (F)


You choose loving kindness (A/F)

You decide to remind yourself that you have grown a lot since then, and this time you could take it as a challenge to grow from your past experience. (T)

*Let’s pause and insert Post Traumatic Growth*

Here is an opportunity to use what Positive Psychology has coined:


Post Traumatic Growth is looking back on an experience that caused you some form of emotional trauma and seeing if you can find anything positive that came from that experience?

What did you learn about yourself from that experience?

Understanding that we cannot always change our situations, but we can change what meaning we place on them, helps us to move forward instead of keeping us stuck in that same place-i.e. “never being good at public speaking again.”

So to close this loop around public speaking- we could look back on our past experience with not doing well speaking in public, and ask what positive thing can I pull from that?

Maybe it’s realizing that you were inexperienced, and the only way to get better is to speak more in public. Or maybe you realized you needed a better outline, or a coach to help you. Maybe this time you realize you need to let go of perfection and just complete something that you can tweak throughout the week. (T)

You decide to use these tools to help you grow into the public speaker you know you can be. (A)

You don’t let fear dictate your experience, you give your presentation and you see what positive things you can pull from it. (R)

Don’t let negative experiences keep you from growing, and trying again.

Let’s dig a little deeper…

In an article from “The Scientific American”, Rabbi Harold Kushner gives an example of a more profound Post Traumatic Growth experience as he speaks about the death of his son.

He stated:

I am a more sensitive person, a more effective pastor, a more sympathetic counselor because of Aaron’s life and death than I would ever have been without it. And I would give up all of those gains in a second if I could have my son back. If I could choose, I would forgo all of the spiritual growth and depth which has come my way because of our experiences. . . . But I cannot choose.”

I just had to add this quote because it shows that yes, Rabbi Kushner did understand all the spiritual growth he attained from his experience, but he would rather have his son back in a second. We don’t have to love that something hard happened to us, or acknowledge that it was fair! Even if it did refine us as a person. It is helpful though, to realize that what is done is done. We can’t change our past circumstances. But if we CAN have some form of acceptance around the event, and see what good did come out of it, it gives us an opportunity to not stay stuck in the trauma. Instead, we grow and eventually move forward, but only when we are ready to.

What has happened in your life that has left you feeling stuck? Can you find anything positive that came from that experience? How has it refined you as a person? Try it out!

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