“WHAT DOESN’T KILL ME MAKES ME STRONGER” ARE THE ADVERSE LIFE EVENTS THE PREREQUISITE FOR MATURATION AND GROWTH?

Naeem Aslam

Abstract


The relationship between adversity and growth is
well documented.1 Religion, philosophy and
literature is full of the examples that showed that
some level of adversity is necessary for maturation
and growth. This is also the central theme of the
humanistic and existential movements of psychology
that a confrontation with tragedy is often precursors
to self-actualisation. Viktor Frankl wrote about the
will to meaning following his experiences in
Theresienstadt and Auschwitz are common examples
of this idea.2 Nietzsche’s famous dictum, “What
doesn’t kill me makes me stronger” is the same
expression of this idea. It is not the event itself but
the subjective cognitive appraisal and struggle to the
adversity is related to growth.1 Researchers have used
a number of different terms to describe individuals’
reports of positive outcomes in the face of adversity,
including posttraumatic growth, adversarial growth,
benefit-finding, stress-related growth, perceived
benefits and thriving etc.3 Each term refers to a
slightly different phenomenon. Several models have
been proposed regarding the occurrence of
Posttraumatic Growth. These include the Functional
Descriptive Model4, Organismic Valuing Theory5 and
Biopsychosocial-Evolutionary Theory. Although
with some variation, these models hypothesise that
the experience of a highly stressful or traumatic event
shatters an individual’s basic beliefs about the self
and the world. In terms of that the persons perceives
the changes in relationship with others, personal life
philosophy and spiritual changes.4
Growth or positive outcomes have been
reported following a variety of traumatic experiences,
including motor vehicle accidents6, terrorist attacks7,
leukaemia8, and cardiac disease9, etc. Findings
showed that growth is not equal in all sorts of
adversities. It depends upon the nature and intensity
of the adversity. Moreover, the patterns are growth is
different across gender and age. For example studies
showed that female exhibit more posttraumatic
growth as compare to male,3 and age is positively
associated with stress symptoms and negatively with
Posttraumatic Growth (PTG)10. Question arises how
much adversity is sufficient for growth. Studies
showed that very low level of trauma or high level of
trauma may is not associated with growth. However,
a moderate level of trauma is associated with the
growth. Mostly a curvilinear relation has been found
between PTG and adversity, i.e., a moderate level of
adversity is associated with positive growth.11,12 The
focus of the most of the past researches was to
uncover the adverse consequences of the traumatic
accidents. Hence, the association of psychopathology
and adversity is well studied. There is scarcity of
research on this aspect of relationship between the
adversity and growth. This editorial is aimed to raise
interest to conduct the studies that find the predictive
role of daily life stressor to positive changes and
maturity.
Adversities are the integral part of life and
cannot be avoided. Despite constant avoidance, we
have to face adversities. These cannot be eliminated
but can be managed with proper adversity
management trainings. Adversities are the best
mentors. Although we strive to avoid adversities and
protect the children from bad events. Over protective
parenting may hinder the growth and maturity of the
offspring’s by buffering and providing shields them
from the real life challenges and problems of life.
Parents should give the children space to resolve
daily life difficulties and challenges. It will help to
lead them to the deliberate ruminations, increase their
confidence, self efficacy, problem solving abilities
and decision making skills. On this children might
develop the sense that they have to ‘live with
problems’ and ‘problem-free life’ does not exist.
Instead of dwelling on the problems they have to deal
it. As a result they come out of adversity with new
strengths and with better coping skills. As most of the
current social scientists suggest that some shocking
experience is necessary for a child to be a realistic
person.

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