Five Domains of Growth After an Adverse Live Event

Notes on the Sunday address by Dr Francis Macnab, 28 February 2016

By John Abbate


How can we grow after adverse life events? In the aftermath of devastation, after the “dreadful has already happened,” dare we speak of growth? “Can we sing again?” asked Dr Macnab.

Dr Macnab discusses five areas of life that become relevant in the wake of adverse events. These are five domains of possible growth in the aftermath of trauma or loss:

  1. The first domain of possible growth is that of the self, in the context of the strengths within and around us. Finding a better self in the context of an inner-strength we didn’t know we had, and the resources around us. A new self; a new being.
  2. The domain of our relationships. We can get angry and bitter after adverse life events, or we can find new life and new vitality in our relationships. Our best relationships are growth-enhancing and will cushion us against anxiety and pain.
  3. The domain of the symbols of growth. Recognise and explore them. Such symbols occupy places of importance in religious rituals. Dr Macnab lists several examples. During each Sunday service at St Michael’s, someone is chosen to carry the processional staff in and out of the church. It is a symbol of life. Along its stem are embedded amethyst stones, sacred symbols of healing and spiritual growth.
  4. The domain of the gift of life and its appreciation. Wedged amid the lifeless concrete and steel of the city, St Michael’s harbours many reminders of the great gift of life, from the stories told in the stained glass windows, to Mingary the Quiet Place, to the gardens that flourish on the church grounds.
  5. The domain of the sense of our own worth and a meaning to life. With meaning and self-worth come the capacity to rise above despair, and to explore an awareness of our best humanity, our spirituality, and dignity.

Our task is to grow. In his psychotherapeutic work, one of Dr Macnab’s tasks has been to open new pathways when growth has been blocked. His more difficult task has been to explore ways to keep those pathways open.

“Our pathways of growth are like coronary arteries,” said Dr Macnab. “You know that coronary arteries can close down and we don’t even notice they’re closed…we evade the signs of our blocked growth.”

To tap into the concealed energies of new growth, of healing and consolation, what do we need? Dr Macnab’s answers all begin with the letter ‘I’: inspiration, interest, interpersonal caring, in-depth insight into our spiritual strengths and awareness, and above all, intelligence.


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