Life Without Baby

Filling the silence in the motherhood discussion

With Eyes of Faith…Adversarial Growth April 19, 2012

By Dorothy Williams

“Great suffering or trauma

can actually lead to great positive change…”


Shawn Achor

Does your mental map include a path that leads up out of adversity to a place where you are stronger than ever before?  Positive psychology researcher, Shawn Achor, believes it is essential to creating happiness and he refers to it as a path that leads to Post-Traumatic Growth.

In his book, The Happiness Advantage, Shawn explains it this way:

“…when soldiers are heading to combat, psychologists commonly tell them they will return either ‘normal’ or with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.  What this does, in effect, is give these soldiers a mental map with only two paths – normalcy and psychic distress.  Yet while PTSD is of course a well-documented and serious consequence of war (and while war can be so horrifying that returning ‘normal’ might be a very attractive promise), another large body of research proves the existence of a third, far better path:  Post Traumatic Growth.”

Also known to psychologists as Adversarial Growth, the experience is achievable if you know the right strategies.  Shawn adds, “People’s ability to find the path up rests largely on how they conceive of the cards they have been dealt, so the strategies that most often lead to Adversarial Growth include positive reinterpretation of the situation or event, optimism, acceptance, and coping mechanisms that include focusing on the problem head-on (rather than trying to avoid or deny it).”

Thanks to the work of the Holy Spirit, I found the third path. With spring bursting forth here in the Midwest, and Easter’s resurrection power welling up within, I’m compelled to keep exploring it.

How about you? How are you dealing with the adversity that comes with infertility?

Dorothy Williams lives near Chicago.  During a flurry of spring cleaning, she tossed out the cards she was dealt. 


6 Responses to “With Eyes of Faith…Adversarial Growth”

  1. Maria Says:

    I love your post. I know some people feel punished by God because they cannot have children. And there are insensitive people who will tell you, if God meant for you to be a mother you would be. A horrible thing to say. I think what helped me most to accept my life without children is this thought, “God/universe has other plans for me.” I think I have a great ability to love, nurture and show compassion to others. Children and animals are drawn to me all the time. I use that gift every day by extending kindness to other people, even strangers, when I sense they need it, even if it’s just a kind word or a smile.Within my own dysfunctional family, I have been a stable, loving influence to my sisters’ children. If I had a child, all of my attention would be focused on it. By not having a child, I can reach so many more people and be the adult that my nephews and niece need.God gave me this gift to help many, not just my own, and I have faith that is exactly where I should be.

    • CiCi Says:

      Beautifully said Maria! And I couldn’t agree more. I too, am using the gifts God gave me. And I’m feeling hugely blessed because of them. God saw the bigger picture for me. And thankfully I’m beginning to see it as well.

  2. Mali Says:

    I think I have definitely experienced Post Traumatic Growth, though I am not a person of faith at all. I understand myself and others so much better, I am more compassionate, I am stronger, not as afraid of adversity and loss now because I know I can cope with it (even if I don’t want to), and all round I feel a much richer, deeper person. And perhaps most importantly, I can recognise and accept my flaws and shortcomings. In this case, acceptance doesn’t mean I don’t try to change, just that I try to focus on change more than beating myself up for them. It isn’t working 100% of course – I am very far (far FAR far) from perfect.

  3. Angela Says:

    Yes! Great post. I am a walking testimony that post-traumatic growth can follow the post-traumatic stress. One has to have an optimistic outlook on life to be able to get there; for people who are naturally optimistic that comes a bit easier than those who are naturally pessimistic. I guess those types would have to force themselves to think optimistically (?), but I assume it can be done with enough trying, and if one is willing to learn new thought habits. I’m thankful that I’m generally in the first category, although I certainly first went through at least two years of what I self-diagnosed as PTSD. It’s interesting to me that, while I was in the midst of dealing with the trauma, I knew on an intellectual level that I would eventually be okay and come out stronger, although emotionally I was completely unable to access that level of acceptance, even though I wanted to be there so badly. You simply cannot get to the top of that mountain of healing without doing the long climb through the grief first!

    Maria, you summed up the rest of what I think. My husband and I can focus, or rather spread out, our attentions to many children/people/humans in general, since we don’t have our own to consume the bulk of our time and resources. My husband is particularly and naturally gifted in that area. He’s extraordinarily generous, caring and compassionate toward other people. I’m really not, being naturally more withdrawn and introspective, but I can see that he makes me a more outgoing and gregarious person with his example,while I contribute a greater percentage of the means with which we are able to give. Anyway, we compliment each other, so it’s good and we are finally getting to a place of acceptance and even happiness 🙂

  4. CiCi Says:

    Really great post once again. I also agree…I’ve decided that God has something more in store for me. Oh yes, I’ve found the third path as well. And I’m thriving in it…for once 🙂

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