Michael J. Kerrigan

Post Traumatic Growth



After reading scores of books on heroism, most recently Lindberg’s, The Heroic Heart and Allison’s Heroes What They Do and Why We Need Them, I am encouraged to dive deeper into the waters of heroism. There remains a rich diet of more books to read, such as, MacFarquhar’s, strangers drowning and Zimbardo’s, The Lucifer Effect.

I am also excited to learn from several web sites dedicated to the study of heroism. Two sites of particular interest to me are: The Heroes Project and the Heroic Imagination Project.

THE HEROES PROJECT is an organization that works with the veterans, soldiers, marines, and military families and communities on all levels. Its mission is to improve the care and protection of heroes through individual support, community empowerment and systemic change. The core work of The Heroes Project includes three initiatives: Climb for heroes, Hope for heroes, Voices for heroes. http://theheroesproject.org/our-story/… Continue reading


What Separates Exceptional People from the Crowd?, June 25, 2015
It is well known that Dr. Bob Rotella has had several successful careers: as the director of sports psychology at the University of Virginia, as an author of eight best selling books and as a teacher of America’s most accomplished athletes, especially golfers. While much of his acclaim is in the sports field with the publication of How Champions Think, Dr. Rotella will gain wider recognition and become better known as a psychologist and teacher of all whose dream is to become “exceptional in their chosen field.”

As a weekend golfer I have enjoyed Bob’s previous books and his most recent book, How Champions Think does not disappoint. Bob’s prose flows from golfing greats he has coached to his other clients in college basketball to major league baseball. The personal golfing… Continue reading



Hopefully, all the readers of The Character Building Project will have time to read, The Meaning of Their Service in today’s WSJ. For those who cannot make time, I offer a few excerpts from the article by General Mattis, a retired four-star (U.S. Marine Corps) and former commander of U.S. Central Command, and a visiting fellow at the Hoover Institution.

General Mattis call to revive the American spirit is reminiscent of scene from Shakespeare, Henry V (“We few, we happy few, we band of brothers…”) a speech to rally the warriors in the English camp.

Here follow a few excerpts from, The Meaning of Their Service, General Mattis explanation of how veterans can help revive American optimism.

So long as you maintain that same commitment to others and that same enthusiasm for life’s challenges that you felt in yourself, your shipmates, your comrades and buddies, you will never… Continue reading


Posted on Apr 7, 2015 
by Kristen Davis

Oakland University professor and director of journalism Garry Gilbert will be recognized at the Media Orthopedic Reporting Excellence (MORE) awards held by the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons at their conference in Washington, D.C. on April 30.

The award is for Gilbert’s story on Luke Fleer, the current regional director of development at OU, which was published as the cover story of Hour Detroit’s Health Guide magazine in March 2014.

Titled “Trauma and Triumph”, the long-text article tells the inspirational story of Fleer, a Rochester College graduate whose college basketball career abruptly ended after a near-fatal car accident his senior year.

The article isn’t as much about the accident as it is about the post-traumatic growth Fleer experienced as a result. It highlights how his attitude and spirit changed for the better, despite the unfortunate fate he was faced… Continue reading


I have been thinking about why some people, whether they are corporate executives, professional athletes or wounded warriors are so much better under pressure than other people.

In his book, Clutch: Why Some People Excel Under Pressure and Others Don’t, New York Times columnist Paul Sullivan argues that under extreme pressure, these business titans didn’t crack. In fact, they excelled. Sullivan makes the point that clutch is not luck. It is the ability to do what you can do under normal conditions but under extreme pressure. He defines clutch as a combination of focus, discipline, adaptability, being present, and a balance of fear and desire.

Sullivan also says being great under pressure is something that you can lose. It was clear that Tiger Woods was on top of his game and one of the greatest athletes of all time in the clutch. But that didn’t mean he’d be great… Continue reading


Another great article from CLAIRE DOROTIK-NANA, LMFT

It’s a coveted trait. It’s what coaching gurus promise, athletes embody, and secretly we all want. It’s what separates though who can take a hit and those who will quit. It’s often what divides those who will fight until success is theirs and those who will only hope for it.

It’s mental toughness. And here are five things that grow it.

Adversity. If physical stress builds physical strength, it’s adversity – which is a form of emotional stress – that builds mental toughness. And if we define mental toughness as the ability to take life’s setbacks and turn them into springboards, then setbacks are the fuel that mental toughness feeds on. For evidence, we can look to the research of Tedeschi and Calhoun, the foremost researchers of post-traumatic growth, who studied groups of trauma survivors, to determine that undergoing trauma ignited a growth… Continue reading

The Taliban shot Nobel Prize winner Malala Yousafzai for going to school. The following excerpt is from her interview in the December 15th issue of FORBES explains why they shot the wrong girl.


“I was going to school every day. My father, my mother, we all were in a very small house, not rich economically but rich in our values, in our ethics.

Then some extremists, the Taliban, came to the valley and changed our lives. Girl’s education was banned. More than 400 schools were destroyed. Women were not allowed to go to markets. Hairdresser shops were blasted. They said no one had the right to be free.

But education was very important to me. I wanted to be someone. I wanted to have an identity.

I had two options. One was to remain silent and never speak and then to be killed by the terrorists. The second option… Continue reading

The following note to the man who coined the term “Post Traumatic Growth,” Professor Tedeschi, evidences growing amount of research from across the Atlantic.


From: Lionel Fairweather [lionel@psylutions.com]

To: Tedeschi, Rich

Subject: Thank you for PTG

Dear Prof. Tedeschi,

I am a post-graduate student in the department of Psychology, University of East London. I am also an active duty soldier in the British Army Reserve, with a number of operational tours under my belt. This experience lead me to choose ‘Homecoming in Reservists’ as my topic for my Doctorate research. I am in final write up now and should complete in a couple of months.  I also run my psychological services business from offices in the University.

I just wanted to let you know I was very pleased to read many of your articles in to Post Traumatic Growth.  My conclusions from my research, which combined… Continue reading

In athletics, working as a team is vital to success. Soldiers facing combat know that working as a team is the difference between life and death. Teamwork is essential to survival. The same may be said for surviving the traumatic experiences that come from living through combat. That seems to be the case for those soldiers who are part of USA Warriors Ice Hockey.

One of those soldiers is Army sergeant Kevin Gatson:


Healing and Growth through Ice Hockey

“Gatson was on patrol in the Kandahar region of Afghanistan on July 12, 2010, when he and other troops had to climb a wall in their way. Two teams of soldiers made it over, and Gatson, the first man from the third unit, was just about to clear the barrier when the man ahead of him stepped on a pressure plate and a bomb buried in the wall exploded.… Continue reading


Maj. Thomas A. Jarrett | U.S. Army Public Health Command excellent article which follows, nicely connects to many in the PTG movement, not the least of whom are my friends: Alvin Townley, (author of Defiant), Taylor Baldwin, Peter Fretwell (co-authors of Lessons from the Hanoi Hilton) and the guy who coined the term PTG… Rich Tedeschi.

ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, Md. — How often do we hear that yet another soldier, colleague or family has been traumatized by an event? Learning that someone survived a crisis may cause us to look at him or her differently, imagining that they might now be damaged permanently by such events.

We see little if any benefit to loss, struggle or suffering, and quickly label those who suffer “victims.” Why do so many hold this viewpoint?

Professionals have become very skilled in diagnosing, treating, and sometimes even preventing mental disorders; however, focus on disease and… Continue reading

Recently, I had the opportunity to speak with Brant Feldman, Vice President of Sales for ADS, Inc. Brant is a Navy SEAL, separated from the Navy after 11 years of service. Because this SEAL is a trusted family friend and one who knew his opinions would be treated in a thoughtful manner, he was willing to share his views about Post Traumatic Stress (PTS.) Brant’s friendship is an honor to enjoy.  This SEAL is now a successful corporate executive and is also trained as a lawyer. Not surprisingly, Brant had completed his due diligence before our call, having reviewed many posts on The Character Building Project site.


The purpose of the interview was to better understand the much lower incidence of PTS among the SEALs versus the greater incidence of PTS among other warriors. The first surprising comment Brant offered was he believed the successful completion of the… Continue reading

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