Fight or Flight? You decide…

When encountering difficulty, is your first thought to crawl back in bed under the covers, or meet the situation head on?  The good news is, regardless of how you’ve responded in the past, you CAN change.

Have you heard of Post-Traumatic Stress?

I’m thinking most of you have, but a term you might not be familiar with is Post-Traumatic Growth. (PTG). With COVID and everything that’s happening in the world right now; I thought I’d take a few minutes to talk about Post-Traumatic Growth and how by having an understanding of it, and being willing to make a few changes, you can positively impact your future.

The term Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder came into use in the 70’s in connection with diagnoses of Vietnam War veterans. PTSD is a real thing and isn’t limited to veterans.  My understanding is that PTSD is a condition that can develop after a person is exposed to a traumatic event, or when something or someone surfaces as a threat to a person’s life.  You might have heard it said when we’re in danger, the “fight or flight” response kicks in.

From experience, I’m confident that the impact of these types of events play a major role in how we think, respond, and make decisions, on both a conscious and sub-conscious level for many years to come.  Also, from experience, I know that each of us has a choice in determining what effect those events have on us.

This is where Post-Traumatic Growth comes in.

It starts with how we view the trauma or adversity. We may not believe it, or be skilled at it yet, but we can learn to control our thoughts. We can learn how to frame or reframe our thoughts in a productive way, decide how much energy we want to give them and whether or not that energy is positive or negative.

When faced with a traumatic event, it seems there are a couple of different avenues. If Post-Traumatic Stress becomes the overarching of the two; the outcome can be one of succumbing to the stress or learning to live with it, but being negatively impacted by it.

On the other hand, if Post-Traumatic Growth is the overarching direction; we can not only survive, but actually thrive, by reflecting on what we learn and then applying it.  No one is saying it’s easy, but it is possible.  Think about it, some of our best lessons learned came out of adversity… learning to ride a bike, drive a car, become proficient at your job, learn a new skill, losing a job, having your heart broken…

The outcome of Post-Traumatic Growth is being able to function at a higher level.  Some of the qualities/characteristics that contribute to PTG are reflection, resiliency, optimism, being willing to ask for help, and having an open mind.  I first became aware of how important our mindset is when a beloved mentor, Dr. Peter Rea introduced me to Carol Dweck’s book, “Mindset:  The New Psychology of Success”.

Two ways to see it.

My take-away is that there are two different ways of looking at things; one can be called a Fixed Mindset which I would describe as “This is as good as it gets”! The other way can be referred to as a Growth Mindset.  A person with a growth mindset thrives on challenge and sees failure and difficulty as opportunities for learning and growth.

With COVID 19 taking front and center in our lives today, we are facing real challenges.  Although the war we are in is a different kind of war than Vietnam; it is war nevertheless.  The good news is we are not fighting one another.  However, we are very much fighting an enemy that is presenting a threat to us and our very existence.

Challenges are something we all face.

When I’m working with an organization or individual who is experiencing difficulties, I ask them to reflect on a couple of questions: “What are you supposed to be learning from this?  How can you take what you’re learning and incorporate it into who you are and make yourself, or the environment better on the other side of this?”.

By asking ourselves these questions, we can shift from “Oh God, ain’t it awful?”, to “What can I do about it?” Questions that help us focus on solutions, rather than problems.  These questions serve as the gas needed to get us moving from a state of paralysis, to the recognition that an opportunity exists, to action.

So, here we are in the midst of the COVID 19 war. What mindset are you letting take center stage? Is it a mindset of “It is what it is, and I can’t do anything about it” or will it be an opportunity mindset?  Today is the day to be thinking, making plans, and preparing for the many opportunities that will be on the other side of this war we’re in.  Some days you’re the windshield, some days you’re the bug…the choice is yours! Make it a good one!

 

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Comments

  1. Jeanne Schad

    Joan, what a great perspective on the the opportunity for growth right now. I see this in the companies we work with and study. Right now, many companies are seeing what is possible (not just reasonable, which was the standard until a few months ago). When I couldn’t eat at California Pizza Kitchen anymore, I could not only order food for delivery but get a 5lb bag of flour and ingredients to make my own pizza at home! If I need to go to the emergency room, I can hold my place in line through an app at wait at home until they call me. Economic downturns can absolutely become the mother of invention. Thank you for posting.

    1. Joan Clark

      Jeanne, thanks for sharing your “real world” experience! I think the new reality is calling us to learn to live and appreciate a state of “possibility. Thank you for your comments! Best – Joan

  2. Deborah Ranier

    Joan, reading you article is as if you are sitting beside me. Your positive sense of change and growth is so much a part of who you are and how you approach life and its challenges. Your questions are indeed the “gas needed to get us moving”. Thanks for sharing your thoughts. I will be thinking about them and passing them along to others.

    1. Joan Clark

      Deborah, thank you for your comments and the compliment. As someone who played a key role in my journey, one of the many things I learned from you was the importance of “authenticity”. Glad you found the questions helpful! Thanks for sharing your intent to do some reflection on the questions and for passing them along to others! I’d love to hear any insights you come up with. Best – Joan

  3. Juan A Esquivel

    Very Interesting, as always you have two options one at each hand at every situation and is your decision what to do, but you need to live with it.
    There is a lot of companies that have emerge during a crisis like:
    1- GE – 1892
    2- GM- 1908
    3- IBM – 1911
    4- Disney – 1929 – right as the nearly 4-year Great Depression was getting started
    5- HP – 1939 – the recession of 1937–1938 would end up being one of the worst recessions of the 20th Century
    6- Hyatt – 1957 – Two months into the Recession of 1958, entrepreneur Jay Pritzker purchased the Hyatt House motel near Los Angeles International Airport

    And the list goes on; Traders Joes, FedEx, Microsoft

    Best oportunities come during crisis, so PTG comes for the ones that sees an opportunity at every crisis.

    Thank you JC for sharing your experience

  4. Frank Gamboa

    Hello Joan, I appreciate you reaching out to me, and it is a refreshing perspective on positive responses to our current issues. I know I’m tired of the humdrum behavior and negative reactions to COVID-19, it’s encouraging to read your blog.

    1. Joan Clark

      Frank, thanks so much for your feedback and kind words. We do have a choice! Keep making good ones! Best – jc

  5. Claudia White

    Crisis breathes opportunities. Oppountitites breathes innovation. Innovation breathes new inventions. If only we understood that fear causes us to freeze and we tend to hide or run away to protect ourselves while fighting it can lead to more chaos. How about learning to manage it. How about creating something new. Some of the best music, best art including paintings and sculptors and new technologies came out of crisis and chaos.

    1. Joan Clark

      Thank you for sharing your perspective and wisdom. The first steps are awareness and understanding, as you stated. Some of the greatest growth and successes arise out of challenging situations. Thanks again – Best – Joan

  6. Stephen Shearon

    Joan,

    This is a really well written and thoughtful piece. I particularly liked your perspective of “what can we learn from this situation?” By asking questions about the situation we are dealing with, we start to regain control and move towards the all important planning stage. Great article. Stephen

    1. Joan Clark

      Stephen, thanks for your insights and comments. I appreciate you taking the time to read and reach out. Stay well – Best – jc

  7. Zaneta Brommer

    Joan,

    A few words can go such a long way. Nice job sharing your insight and positivity, in a time when so many need it.

    Thank you for sharing!

    1. Joan Clark

      Zaneta, thank you for your comments. I appreciate you taking the time to read and reach out. Stay safe – Best – jc

  8. Evelyn Serrano

    What a great blog! Thank you for sharing your wisdom, your positivity and your humor. I am looking forward to more! I choose post traumatic growth not stress. Your blogs will help keep my mindset there consistently. I will take your guide and apply and share with my children too! What a bonus 🙂 Cant think of a better co-instructor. Thanks Joan!

    1. Joan Clark

      Evelyn, thanks so much for your kind words and comments. I am pleased that you found a nugget or two that can help you navigate both personally and professionally. No doubt in my mind that you are a PTG case! Take care of you and thanks again! Best – jc

  9. Jaspal Mahal

    Very well written and very inspiring blog. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

    1. Joan Clark

      Jaspal, thank you for taking the time to read my blog and reaching out. I appreciate you. Take care and stay healthy! Best – jc

  10. Libby Anderson

    Thank you, Joan. As always, you are a level voice of reason in a tumultuous time. I like the concept of PTG, and it makes a lot of sense. I think this experience has challenged me to think outside the box. My Program can’t run in the manner it usually does, so what should we do? We have to shift. We have to think of alternate ways of accomplishing the goal. As you rightly pointed out, we can’t do this all alone; we need others to assist in the collaboration, the planning and the execution. While this has been a difficult season, we’re learning that we can do things we never thought we could. I don’t know whether it’s “misery loves company” or “we’re better together,” but maybe it’s a little of both! My colleagues have provided me with so much strength and direction these past few months. I dare say nobody will ever forget what it was like to fight the COVID-19 battle.

    Be well, Joan!

    1. Joan Clark

      Libby, thanks so much for your insights and comments. Crisis brings growth opportunities and it’s obvious that you’re an active post-traumatic growth practitioner. You know I strongly believe we are able to do what we do because of those who are the wind beneath our wings. Your team is fortunate to have you and vice-versa. Stay healthy – Best Joan

  11. Barry Draskovich

    Joan, as always, you force me to stretch my brain in ways I haven’t before. PTG is a necessary path if we have any hope of successfully reaching the other side of the chaos in which we currently find ourselves. Thanks for opening my eyes to a new way of seeing the situation with practical questions to help guide the way through. Your mentorship is highly valued.

    1. Joan Clark

      Barry, thanks for your insights and comments. Keep up the good work of being a PTG practitioner! I appreciate you! Best – jc

  12. Judi Kizzen

    Joan, great read and so true. You always inspire and educate with a memorable touch. It is so important to persevere and stay strong verses dwell and “hide under the covers” I look forward to reading more from you.

  13. Chuck Barry

    Joan,

    I like the Post-Traumatic Growth (PTG) mindset you describe and the constructive practical what can I or we learn and how can I adopt and integrate into who I am what I decide to learn from the COVID-19 and other crises we are facing today. Your “mindset stretching” blog reminds me of two sayings I have seen and thought about over the years. First, “You rise or fall, succeed or fail b the image you hold in your mind.” Second, “Do you see the obstacles in opportunities or opportunities in obstacles?”

    Thanks, Joan. Look forward to reading your next blog.

    1. Joan Clark

      Chuck, thank you for sharing your insights! Good guiding principles toward helping us be our best selves! Take care of you! Best – jc

  14. Tara Taylor

    Joan,
    I love this post. While so many have a negative outlook during the pandemic, as always you challenge us to look at the opportunities and think outside of the box which will lead us to PTG.

    Your positivity and inspiration propels us to look beyond the now. Thanks for including me and I look forward to reading your next blog.

    1. Joan Clark

      Tara, thanks for your comments and insights. You have always been a quick study! You also know the people I challenge are the people I care about and who have the desire to become their best selves. Thank you for being willing to stretch. Take care of you. Best – jc

  15. Sue Scarfe

    What a good perpective – both personally and professionally COVID has gievn us an opportunity to step back and challange our ‘norms’ and think differently – we need to ensure that we challange ourselve continue to use the same thinking way when things are ‘normal’

  16. Greg Crowe

    Love this! Awesome insight as usual. Reminds of some of the work we did around “True North”. The crucible’s in our lives can dramatically shape our character in positive ways. So, I am trying to embrace this season as a learning opportunity and will hopefully be a more sensitized and grateful person when we get to the other side. And we will get to the other side. Thanks Joan.

  17. Richa Bhargava

    Thank you for this Article Joan.
    Its great that you decided to share your valuable thoughts.
    Today’s world needs more people like you.

  18. Deborah Scott

    Joan,

    Thank you for sharing this positive approach to dealing with trauma. With no end in sight with COVID it would be easy to get stuck in the here and now rather than using this time as an opportunity to learn from this experience and plan for the future. I love the idea of PTG! As you point out, we can begin thinking now about what we are learning from this (about the world and ourselves) and how that learning can positively effect us going forward.

    1. Joan

      Thank you Deborah. Glad the article resonated with you. Hope you and yours are well. Stay safe and thanks again for the comments! Best – jc

  19. Your article gave me a lot of inspiration, I hope you can explain your point of view in more detail, because I have some doubts, thank you.

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