In many cases, yes. Individuals who went through the most awful events came out stronger than those who did not face any adversity.
Never to be forgotten, finally, is post-traumatic growth (PTG). A substantial number of people also show intense depression and anxiety after extreme adversity, often to the level of PTSD, but then they grow. In the long run, they arrive at a higher level of psychological functioning than before. “What does not kill me makes me stronger,” said Nietzsche. Those old soldiers who populate Veterans of Foreign Wars posts and tell war stories are not in denial— war was indeed the best time of their lives.
In a month, 1,700 people reported at least one of these awful events, and they took our well-being tests as well. To our surprise, individuals who’d experienced one awful event had more intense strengths (and therefore higher well-being) than individuals who had none. Individuals who’d been through two awful events were stronger than individuals who had one, and individuals who had three— raped, tortured, and held captive for example— were stronger than those who had two.
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