Posted by in podcast, wellness

Podcast #338:
The Upside of Trauma?

Jim Rendon

Guest: Jim Rendon

It was the last thing he expected to hear.

The Vietnam War had come to an end, and U.S. Air Force psychiatrist William Sledge was assigned to evaluate American aviators held captive and released by the Vietnamese.

Many of the POWs Sledge assessed had been confined in the tiniest of cells, often tortured, beaten, and deprived of food and medical care.

After enduring traumas of such a brutal nature, Sledge expected he’d be meeting with men who had been broken, forever damaged by the horrors they had lived through.

What he found was something much different…

“At first I thought I had cotton in my ears or something,” he recalled after speaking with the POWs. “The things they told me didn’t make much sense. They had a hard time, they were clear about that. But so often they would say things like, ‘I kind of miss it. It was an intense experience. I learned a lot.’”

They missed it?

Sledge went on to find that 61% of the POWs indicated that they had undergone beneficial changes are a result of their captivity. Only 30% of the control group (non-POWs) reported similar benefits.

What’s more, the POWs who were held the longest and received the harshest treatment were far more likely to report positive changes than those held for shorter periods of time.

Sledge was right, it didn’t make any sense.

Or does it?

In a world riddled with war and tragedy, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) has received its rightful share of media attention depicting the long-term psychological effects of trauma.

However, the side of the story seldom told is the findings of a relatively new field of research on the science of post-traumatic growth.

According to today’s podcast guest Jim Rendon — author of Upside: The New Science of Post-Traumatic Growth — experiencing growth following a traumatic event is actually more common than PTSD.

In other words, bad things can make people … better people.

In today’s episode of UW Radio, Jim and I discuss WHY trauma can have a transformative effect and the 4 factors that best predict HOW MUCH we grow in the face of trauma and tragedy.

I’m really excited about this episode, as we’re covering a topic seldom addressed in the online health space. I hope you can share with anyone you know who may be struggling through the effects of a life-altering, traumatic event.

And I highly, highly, highly recommend Jim’s book.

Click the PLAY button at the top of this post to listen to the entire episode.

I’ve got more killer episode coming your way. Yesterday, I recorded with Dr. Jill Carnahan (mold exposure) and Dr. Tom O’Bryan (gluten skepticism). Tomorrow, I’ll be chatting with Chef Pete Evans. Stay tuned!

Happy Wednesday,


(1) Quotes and statistics from Upside: The New Science of Post-Traumatic Growth



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