"Resilience and strength can be attained through unexpected routes." ~Dr. Scott Barry-Kaufman
Ex-Army Major James Greenshields was a commanding officer in the Australian military who was responsible for leading a combat team of more than 100 soldiers into Iraq from 2005-2007. James, who was born into a military family, strongly felt from a young age that he meant to one day serve in the army in order to defend his country and be of service to others. After joining the army, James quickly rose through the ranks due to his natural ability to lead and communicate with others.
In preparation for his deployment to Iraq, he was put in charge of assembling his own combat team, training them, and equipping them with the necessary skills to support their mission and to protect one another. James was known as the kind of leader who led from the front. He never expected anyone on his combat team to do anything that he wouldn't do. If they were heading into danger, he was the one who led from the front. To James, he had no choice but to embody courage and bravery as these were, in his mind, the qualities that exemplified strong leadership.
In 2007, while out on patrol, the armored vehicle which was carrying he and his crew was hit by a roadside bomb. This incident forever changed the path of James' life and after returning to Australia, the mental scars from the bombing haunted him, causing him to grapple with a number of unresolved issues that ultimately led to PTSD and major depression. At one point, the inability to deal with these emotions and the trauma caused by this ordeal resulted in James almost taking his own life.
James was able to confront his emotional pain and found a new sense of purpose in an emotional resiliency program that he participated in which taught him to proactively deal with the trauma he had experienced. By doing the deep internal work necessary, James was able to once again thrive and to find greater meaning in his life. He and his wife now run the Resilient Leaders Foundation which is based in Australia and they have devoted themselves to helping provide people with the tools, resources and skills to lead and collaborate in order to make a difference in the world and to thrive.
I recently had the chance to interview James on my podcast and in this episode he spoke about the concept of post-traumatic growth. We are so used to hearing the term 'post traumatic stress disorder', but the research done by Dr, George Bonanno has shown that many people who have experienced major trauma in their life not only show incredible resilience but actually thrive in the aftermath of the traumatic event.
Greater appreciation of life Greater appreciation and strengthening of close relationship Increased compassion and altruism The identification of new possibilities or a purpose in life Greater awareness and utilization of personal strengths Enhanced spiritual development Creative growth
In Scott's article, he writes about the idea of 'cognitive exploration' and how exploring our thoughts and feelings that come with a traumatic event allows us to delve more deeply into how we might find new meaning in a seemingly incomprehensible experience in our life.
In my episode with James Greenshields, it is evident that this is the process that he went through himself during his PTSD and major depression. James learned how to be curious about his emotions and feelings in order to better understand what they represent at the core of his being. In learning more a himself and remaining open and curious, he was able to listen to his inner voice and find the strength to discover new meaning and purpose in his life. The world is a better place as James' work has made such a difference to many people who have taken his workshops.
If you have the time and are interested in learning more about James' story, I've included a link to the podcast below. As well, I have hyperlinked Dr. Scott Barry-Kaufman's article above and his website. Scott's work has had a deep impact on the work I do and I strongly recommend that you get your hands on a copy of his new book Transcend: The New Science of Self-Actualization.
Thanks for reading and continue to shine brightly during these difficult times.