Adaptive Development

A More Inclusive Paradigm for Trauma & Growth



The thing which creates trauma is the same thing which creates the realization from epiphanies and experiences of spiritual awakening. There is more to trauma than mere pathology and dis-ease. That thing is 'neurobiology'.


Trauma is part of the body's innate, intelligent response which not only helps the organism adapt to survive but it is the same intelligence which helps it grow in profound ways. Both moves, whether adapting to survive or adapting to grow, harness the exact same neurobiological levers in the central nervous system. Whereas 'trauma', a survival adaptation, results in some form of contraction in the body and mind, 'insight', a growth adaptation, results in a form of expansion in the body and mind. Again, the neurobiological mechanism for adaptation for both is the same.


  • Trauma is what emerges, as a neurobiological survival adaptation, when the organism is confronted with an actual or anticipated experience which threatens to overwhelm or endanger it.


  • Insight is what emerges, as a neurobiological growth adaptation, when the organism is confronted with an actual or anticipated experience which embraces something new and enlightening.


  • Traumatic conditioning is an adaptation which is limited in scope and becomes redundant as life conditions change or when it is recognized that the life conditions aren't as threatening as was perceived earlier.


  • Growth conditioning is an adaptation which is limited in scope and becomes redundant as life conditions change or when it is recognized that the life conditions aren't as understandable as was perceived earlier.


  • The organism is an adaptive learner in that it has the innate capacity to reconstitute its nervous system and physiology so that it may become better suited to the actual and/or anticipated life conditions.


Following this line of thought, I want to propose a distinction between therapy as a problem fixing approach, and adaptive development as an approach to inspired growth as well as problem fixing. Though the latter transcends and includes the former, one significant area where the two approaches diverge quite significantly is that adaptive development requires actively engaging the individuals moral and ethical intuition as a 'complex attractor', i.e. the organizing principle(s) that can inform the transformation of the individuals whole (intellectual, emotional, volitional, spiritual) self.


I believe that the frame being intro here with Adaptive Development not only offers a more creative container that can help individuals realize more of their potential but I believe this frame also offers the redemptive space which is being called for by the many challenging aspects of 21st century life.


Ancient wisdom reveals how life is suffering, yet it goes on to explain that the way out of suffering begins with what the Buddha called ‘right view’, an order of being which emerges through ‘insight’.