The original definition of trauma included only physical damage to a human being. Blunt force trauma was the result of an injury due to a motor vehicle accident or other non- penetrating wound suffered by an individual. That word has evolved over the years to include mental damage. The most famous being PTSD - post-traumatic stress disorder.
PTSD occurs when a person is exposed to a highly stressful situation such as a war zone or a natural disaster. People diagnosed with this condition find themselves locked into a highly altered state and are generally unable to disconnect from their experience even though the threat has been removed. In the old days of WW1 and WW2, it was called shell shock.
PTSD is a very important adaptation for human beings. Evolution carefully crafted this condition in us back during a time where the world was ripe with danger. PTSD allows humans to maintain a highly alert state which clearly would have positive survival benefits if you had just witnessed a saber-tooth tiger attack your tribe.
Today soldiers in war zones and EMS workers are the most likely to experience a diagnosis of PTSD. What is interesting is that when help is received, there’s over a 90% chance of recovery.
Humans are resilient.
If our mental recovery from very traumatic events is possible, why is that we spend some much time and effort ensuring that children are shielded from events that may trigger negative emotions?
Failure and criticism are non-existent in elementary education and quickly fading in high-school and university. It’s clear that teaching resilience and grit requires students to embrace pressure and possibly failure.
Individuals who recover from PTSD often report living happier lives than before the traumatic incident. Recognizing that life is fragile, taking pleasure in the small things, and focusing on interpersonal relationships are the main reasons why PTSD patients are happier.
Humans have complex stress systems built into our anatomy. We’re designed to be stressed and recover. Look at someone who lies in bed all day. Their physical bodies begin to atrophy. The only way to maintain a healthy body is to put it under some form of physical stress.
Our minds are no different.