So, Having emerged from a period of "being tested" myself Im interested in what counts as a "test", with the practical view of finding "tests" which are the least "traumatic" as possible.

Here"s the background: Its a common ark in pop culture, and before that literature, and indeed many religious texts of a person with "normal" beginnings, having to face some danger (The test) and emerging forever changed, in theory for the better / triumphant over oppressors etc..

Examples of this could be Starwars ep 4 Luke's test is losing his family, seeing his mentor die... etc.. etc..

Which leads me to believe that "growth" cannot exist without first some kind of Trauma. My trauma has been the death of my wife, and unborn child, which is as horrendous as it sounds, but I have found that despite the grief, I now realise Im capable of so much more....

But what counts as "trauma"? Also, could it be that the depth of the trauma is proportional to the "growth" which may, or may not follow?

  • Trauma is "defined" by psichology. Aug 30, 2023 at 17:26
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    Aug 30, 2023 at 20:02

2 Answers 2


Trauma can (sometimes) provide a challenge that prompts you to change yourself to overcome the challenge. In the best case, you emerge, more resilient to trauma of that kind.

This is how we train neural networks: we give the network a problem to solve, ask it to try, and tell it, "you were wrong!" millions of times. Gradually the network learns not to be wrong as much, and has gained some useful function. Something similar happens in the education system. Work environments also help challenge people to change their behavior to become more effective in that environment.

But excessive trauma is not good for you. Chronic stress damages your health, ages you more rapidly, causes cancer. Abusive relationships lead to coping mechanisms that are maladaptive outside of the scope of the abusive relationship.

We could compare it to physical training. To get swole, you need to lift progressively heavier weights, each just at the limit of what you're able to cope with. This causes micro-tears in your muscles, and the body heals them and builds more muscle. But if you go too far beyond what you're able to cope with, you're likely to just damage your muscles and tendons, which can permanently weaken you. Nobody emerges physically stronger from damaging their shoulder ligaments or spraining their ankle.

Ideally, stress should be at a level that is just enough to challenge you and keep you learning, but traumatic events should be minimized.


Scientific discovery can be seen as a form of "growth", and it usually doesn't involve trauma (especially not for the discoverer). This is growth in terms of knowledge, whereas you might've had something closer to emotional growth in mind. But e.g. if someone discovers biological similarities and common origin for human races, that may lead to emotional growth of eliminating negative feelings they may have towards other races.

Empathy means you can grow from the experiences (including trauma) of others.

One can grow from self-reflection or other forms of contemplation.

So trauma certainly doesn't seem necessary for growth.

It's certainly possible to grow from trauma, and some people may grow a lot from relatively small trauma, while others may experience little to no growth from extreme trauma. It depends very much on the specifics of the trauma and your own tendencies and thought processes.

The idea that we need to "be tested" is something that seems to be strongly tied to religion without much justification outside of that.

  • Im not a religious person, religion is only mentioned as the idea of trauma/being tested is a common ark in many of religious texts. Ill agree though that my question wasn't fully crystalised in my head, and clearly that ambiguity came through in my question. I think the nub of it is that "it depends" not only on the person, but the test. A person could deal with a death "very well" compared to another. Which leads me to believe that if someone were to actively seek out tests, they could do much worse than pursue activities that "scare" them. e.g. public speaking in order effect "growth"
    – GeoSword
    Sep 1, 2023 at 7:00

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