The psychology of post-traumatic growth can help us understand why some people become stronger, braver, and more creative after the worst moment of their lives

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It’s been 29 days since I lost my partner in a swimming accident. And for the 29th day, I’m awake at an ungodly hour writing. Writing about his life, and mine. Writing about everything I learned and how deeply we loved in our too-short time together.

The last time I experienced a surge of creativity like this was three years ago, when my divorce was finalized. This wasn’t one of your run-of-the-mill separations where we tried to work it out but couldn’t. This divorce came on fast and hard and necessarily. But while I fully expected to fall apart, I…

I’m a single mom, a full-time graduate student, and grieving the loss of a partner. What was I thinking?

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My friend texted me a few days ago at 10 pm. “Want to be on a game show with my sister? Big prizes. The catch is, you’d have to drop everything and leave soon.”

I’m not a game show enthusiast; I’ve seen zero seasons of Survivor. When I read that text my head was foggy from writing grad school papers. Still, before my head hit the pillow, I knew what my answer would be.

What was I thinking?

The show is an adult-sized reboot of the 90’s Nickelodeon kids’ show “Legends of the Hidden Temple.” The application said you can’t…

I didn’t expect them to take my most embarrassing moment to heart

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I was 14 when my parents decided to switch churches and go to a much bigger one a few towns over. I’d spent my entire childhood attending a two-room rural church with the same twelve people, nearly all of which were my grandmother’s age. The only other kids in Sunday school were my siblings.

I felt awkward as hell the first time I got dropped off at the new church youth group, which was held in a repurposed gymnastics studio. Peeking from the car window, I watched a huge crowd of beautiful adolescent strangers walk in the doors. I didn’t…

Emotional stability is the sexiest quality in a fellow human being

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It’s what we’re all thinking when we scroll through dating profiles:

“His arm muscles look extra bulgy holding that giant marlin on that little charter fishing boat, but what happens when shit hits the fan?”

I’ve read 252 books on dating psychology, have a Ph.D. in human behavior, and interviewed over 10,000 eager participants aged 16 to 96…

Just kidding. I didn’t do any of that.

As a single human female with firsthand knowledge of the current dating scene, and a friend to many tangled up in the same position, I can attest to the fact that there’s one single…

Dreading your next session means you’re probably doing something right

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There’s a state park in Iowa where, with only the slightest bit of preparation, you can feel yourself die a little bit with each descent.

On my first effort at cave exploration, I encountered points so low and tight I had to smash my small frame through the guts of a muddy creek, soaking every inch of my clothing, just to fit under a 8-ton rock. A rock attached to a mountain. A mountain that, with just the right seismic activity, could have pinned my face forever into the earth. Have I mentioned the darkness?

We like to think about…

A gentle guide for the heartbroken

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“I don’t know why I’m doing this,” my client Anna* whispered into the screen, tears tracing lines down her cheeks. She was clutching her phone to her heart. It was filled with pages of emails, texts and unsent notes she’d written to her former partner, who was abusive. “I don’t know how to let go. I guess I just want to ask him: did he ever really love me?”

Anna’s response is not an unusual one. As a counselor for survivors of domestic violence, I hear this question, in various forms, from every client. Survivors of abuse want to know…

Because rewriting the past means celebrating the now

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I spent my 17th birthday at home, alone.

It was 1999, back before Facebook — so no prompted happy birthday messages or cake emojis every hour. There was no texting either, just a phone base on a wall with a long, curly cord that rang once when my grandmother called.

Because my hometown had a burgeoning population of 250, and because my childhood home was eighteen cornfields outside of that town, this particular birthday felt especially secluding. I remember skimming the scum off the above-ground pool, still in my pajamas, balancing my toes on the edge.

My parents, sister and…

How a little self-talk rewriting can flip your point-of-view

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“Imagine this,” Nina* says, taking off her glasses and leaning into the screen. “You are swiping through dating profiles. You are reading the messages they send you. But here’s the difference: you know, deep within, these people are contacting you because they want a job.”

My therapist pauses for emphasis.

I lean in too.

“But this isn’t just any job. They are here because they want the best of the best. They want a job at Harvard. No, Google! And being Google, you’re only going to accept the best of the best.”

Nina knows I am low on self-esteem fuel…

It’s all about boundaries and protecting my kids

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I pride myself on being an open book. I’ve written about sensitive topics like a partner suddenly dying, a miscarriage, and living in a commune. But there are other subjects to which I only make vague references or give only the information necessary to get the point across.

Some people find relief pouring out their souls on their personal blog or Facebook. In a crisis, vulnerably sharing your pain to ask for prayers, support, or financial help can be an opportunity for real healing and growth. Everyone wants a community to stand with them in their toughest times.

But when…

I endured pain in the arms of someone I loved. This is the new path I’ve chosen going forward.

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  1. Love doesn’t feel like pain or look like violence.
  2. Love feels like mutual respect. It is demonstrated through shared power.
  3. I am worthy of being loved by someone who loves in a healthy way.
  4. Perfection is not the goal in a human or in a relationship. The goal is kindness that is consistent and reliable.
  5. When someone shows me who they are, it’s in my best interest to believe them the first time.
  6. I’m better off operating in the reality others present for themselves — not the hoped-for reality I have for them.
  7. I don’t need to prevent a crisis…

Courtney Christine

Storyteller. Solo parent. Social worker. Writing on mindfulness, personal growth, and creativity. Super big fan of triads. I’m on FB @courtneycwrites

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