Positive Growth From Adversity and Beyond: Insights Gained From Cross-Examination of Clinical and Nonclinical Samples

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Abstract

Growth following adversity is a well-known phenomenon. Yet studies often focus on specific populations and/or specific types of adversities, thus limiting opportunities to identify underlying common processes of growth. The present study sought to identify shared positive change processes in different samples of individuals each of whom faced life adversities (clinical/nonclinical) and experienced growth as a result. We conducted a secondary analysis comparing in-depth interviews from 2 independent study samples including 27 Israeli adults that experienced spiritual growth and 31 American mental health peer-providers in recovery. Using the grounded theory approach (Strauss & Corbin, 1998), the findings point to existing shared transformative positive change pertaining to one’s way of being and adhering to a generative orientation (Erikson, 1963) in the world. These changes were conceptualized under 3 growth dimensions: (a) strengthened sense of self, manifested in self-integration, self-acceptance, and enhanced ability to face further adversity; (b) development of compassion, acceptance of others, and a deep sense of connection to others; and (c) a prosocial commitment characterized by generativity and active contribution. These findings point to shared growth processes among individuals with a different backgrounds and different kinds of adversities. This change goes beyond mere coping, to an inner transformation in one’s self, connection to others, and development of a proactive-prosocial approach in the world. The implications for health care practitioners and the importance of acknowledging the potential for growth following adversity and supporting such growth are discussed.

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