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Star Trek Next Generation Patrick Stewart and Post-Traumatic Growth

Updated on January 3, 2017
Sir Patrick Stewart as he appeared at a San Diego entertainment convention in 2013.
Sir Patrick Stewart as he appeared at a San Diego entertainment convention in 2013. | Source

Author's Foreward

No, I don't idolize him. In fact, when Patrick Stewart played Scrooge in Dickens' classic The Christmas Carol, I just didn't see him fitting with that character. I kept hearing him say "engage" and "make it so" in my mind as I watched the bold captain from Star Trek act fearful. I just wasn't convinced.

I had no idea what the AARP article "Finding a Light in the Darkness" was about, except that it was about Patrick Stewart. Whatever it was, my experience with AARP magazine was that it had some pretty decent stuff, so I was sure I'd have a positive experience from this reading. As it turned out, I wasn't disappointed.

Meg Grant,, West Coast Editor at AARP The Magazine
Meg Grant,, West Coast Editor at AARP The Magazine | Source

Meg Grant's Article

There are good journalists and some that just don't make the grade--Meg is one of the good ones, with over 25 years of journalism. In her 1800-word article, she covers a lot of detail about the actor's life without making it sound like a catalog. She opens with "It's take-out night at the Brooklyn, New York, home of Sir Patrick Stewart ..." In that first paragraph, you learn that the name of Patrick's new wife is Sunny Ozell, a singer-song writer, and that the actor owns a smartphone. She talks about his success with social media and informs you that the works that contributed most to Patrick's fame were his roles in Star Trek: The Next Generation, X-Men: The Last Stand, and Waiting for Godot.

So, I was a little astounded when in paragraph 5, Patrick's abusive childhood iwas mentioned. I had no idea. The man had not been born rich, either. Rather than being the eldest, as one might suspect, he was the youngest born of three sons, the eldest brother being Patrick's senior by 17 years. The young Patrick didn't even see his dad until the man returned from the war in 1945. Patrick was already five years old.

Gladys Stewart, his mother, worked in a U.K. mill weaving wool. She earned a pitiful $7 for a 45-hour work week, according to the article. Patrick was quoted as saying, "I can remember . . that oily, greasy smell of wool" (AARP Apr/May 2014, p. 48).

The article goes on to explain the abuse Alfred Stewart imposed upon his wife, and how the boys had urged their mother to leave this fearful, violent man. Her heart, however, would not allow her to leave her husband, who had served his country in the Parliament Regiment as a sergeant major, so Gladys kept the marriage together, in spite of the threat to her life.

The following two videos show Patrick's dedication to the charitable causes of Refuge and Combat Stress in The United Kingdom. Supporting these organizations, along with the discipline of expressing emotions in his acting career, has helped Patrick Steward to process his childhood difficulties.

Such positive change resulting from traumatic situations is now being referred by some psychologists as post-traumatic growth.

Author's note: You can read Meg's complete article at http://www.aarp.org/entertainment/style-trends/info-2014/patrick-stewart-aarp-magazine.html

Patrick Steward Promoting Refuge

Patrick Stewart Promoting Program Combat Stress

Mark Miller, Journalist and Author
Mark Miller, Journalist and Author | Source

Mark Miller's Article

Mark's article "Surviving the Jolt" poses the question, "What makes some people bounce back stronger than before [trauma]? The first eight paragraphs are about Dave Sanderson, a former software sales manager for Oracle, who survived a crashed airline flight. The experience caused Sanderson to rethink his life's priorities. Now, he says, "I started scheduling around my family instead of my job" (AARP Apr/May 2014, p. 56). Today Sanderson raises funds for the American Red Cross through public speaking.

The article goes on to assert that most people undergo some sort of life crisis by the time middle-age is reached, but sometimes the experience causes the sufferer to undergo a drastic change in his or her life choices. This phenomenon is now known as "post-traumatic growth (PTG)," a term introduced in 1995 by Professor Lawrence Calhoun, specializing in Psychology at Charlotte's University of North Carolina (Ibid, p. 58).

A story to illustrate a case of PTG is given about a gay Cuban-American whose mother had failed to realize her son's feelings of helplessness and persecution surrounding his sexual orientation. Now the mother is the chief executive officer of a non-profit organization that supports individuals suffering from the guilt relating to their homosexuality. Suicide prevention is an important part of the organization's focus.

Another story conveys how a corporate executive had to deal with the sudden death of his wife while he was on a business trip to China. His entire impetus for working was based on the couple's retirement plan, but with his wife gone, the man had to reassess his life's goal and lost his desire to stay in the corporate world. He turned to gerontology services through a community program and now acts as the outreach director of Elders in Action, a nonprofit program that helps the elderly cope with setbacks and find purpose in their lives.

A Hurricane Katrina survivor overcomes her life-long fear of working in Mississippi, a state with a history of racial prejudice. Being a person of color, the fear was difficult to dismiss, but acceptance was achieved when a volunteer position actually took her to the state's Gulf of Mexico where locals applauded her for her work.

A fourth account relates how a journalist, suffering a stroke that compromises his work and musical pursuits, decides to take his music more seriously. Now he records original songs for albums, his life-long dream, while writing.

Such are the changes catalyzed by PTG, and I realized this term applies perfectly to Patrick Stewart in his overcoming childhood abuse through his acting and philanthropy.

How about you--are you a survivor? ***

Six Life Changes Typical by Middle-Age


  1. Job loss
  2. Divorce
  3. Death of a loved one
  4. Sudden health scares
  5. Natural disaster
  6. Accidents


Credits and Resources

Grant, Meg; "Finding a Light in the Darkness," AARP: The Magazine, AARP, Washington, DC; April/May 2014 ISSN-1547-2329

Miller, Mark; "Surviving the Jolt," Ibid. pp 56-60, 80.

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    • Marie Flint profile image
      Author

      Marie Flint 3 years ago from Jacksonville, Florida USA

      Yes, I was one of those baby boomers who was enthralled with STAR TREK, the television series, in high school. I watched it every Friday night. I loved the fantasy combined with science, especially the logic of Mr. Spock.

      So, when STAR TREK: THE NEXT GENERATION appeared, I didn't like it. My favorite characters were gone, and how can a Klingon replace a Vulcan?

      After skipping many episodes, I gradually gave "Next Generation" a try and found myself beginning to bond with the new characters. Deanna Troi with her Betazoid sensitivities was a nourishing character.

      When I saw the picture of Patrick Stewart, who portrayed Capt. Jean-Luc Picard, on the cover of AARP magazine, I knew I would be reading the article. (I've been a member of AARP for the second time beginning earlier this year 2014, and sometimes the magazine has some very good articles.)

      The second article that caught my attention was promoted on the front cover as "When Your Life Gets a Jolt - The way to bounce back." Frankly, I went through a lot in my lifetime, and I wanted to see what the article had to say. Was I making the most of my life?

      So, this hub combines the two articles and my own personal insight. I hope you find it meaningful and inspiring.

    • MizBejabbers profile image

      MizBejabbers 3 years ago

      I had never heard the term “post-traumatic growth”, but I had noticed that adversity seemed to make some people more determined to succeed.

      A good example of this is Vietnam Veterans. I had noticed that many of them seem to be broken forever, but there were men like John Kerry and John McCain who made a career of public service instead of sitting around and crying in their beer. There are many others who could be named, but those two are the most famous.

      I’m glad to know that Patrick Stewart was a PTG survivor. When I was a devoted fan of Star Trek The next Generation, I was surprised to learn that he is lauded as a fine Shakespearian actor, but then it all made sense. That’s why he was so classy in his role as Captain Jean Luc Picard. He came across well in his X-men series, too. But then there are disadvantages in playing heroes. Sometimes it is difficult for the fans to see the actor in other roles.

      I am always surprised when I learn things about actors like this. Thanks for cluing us in. Great hub. Voted up++

    • Marie Flint profile image
      Author

      Marie Flint 3 years ago from Jacksonville, Florida USA

      Thank you, MizBejabbers, for reading and commenting. Whatever we call it, post-traumatic anything is an important subject, one that I hope becomes obsolete like vaccine did for polio. Counseling and human service organizations are available for persons needing them, and victims or drug abusers should not feel ashamed or guilty about their need.

    • cecileportilla profile image

      Cecile Portilla 3 years ago from West Orange, New Jersey

      Hi Marie Flint:

      I enjoyed Star Trek. I am a fan of Patrick Stewart. Thank you for sharing his story and his video. I have never heard the term Post Traumatic Growth before. However, it does make sense that after overcoming certain types of emotional trauma you can "grow" and become stronger and more successful in life. Voted up!

    • Marie Flint profile image
      Author

      Marie Flint 3 years ago from Jacksonville, Florida USA

      Thank you for your time, comment, and vote, Cecille. Yes, PTG was a new term for me, too. Together, the two articles made for very good reading.

    • Jodah profile image

      John Hansen 2 years ago from Queensland Australia

      Very interesting hub Marie. I was never a Star Trek fan, but I have always admired Patrick Stewart as a man and an actor. I found this a good read and learnt a lot I didn't know especilly about PTG. Voted up

    • Marie Flint profile image
      Author

      Marie Flint 2 years ago from Jacksonville, Florida USA

      Thank you for the read, comment and vote, Jodah. Yes, PTG is a relatively new term. I had never heard of it before, either. Trauma is difficult for most to overcome, but, for others, trauma serves as a learning experience that changes the sufferer so that he or she comes back stronger than before the fateful event.

    • Nell Rose profile image

      Nell Rose 2 years ago from England

      Hi, I am a huge fan of Star Trek in fact all of the spin offs too, and I didn't realise that Patrick Stewart had such a hard childhood, I think he is a wonderful actor, I have also never heard of PTG, I found this really interesting, thanks, nell

    • Marie Flint profile image
      Author

      Marie Flint 2 years ago from Jacksonville, Florida USA

      Thank you for the visit, Rose.

      We share the lack of knowledge about Patrick's childhood and the term post-traumatic growth (PTG).

      The discipline of drama does require one to become a master of his emotions. Enlightened as to this actor's childhood, I can understand how his career path helped him in many ways.

      Sometimes pain and suffering, while not preferred experiences, do motivate one to do good things. I believe Sir Patrick Stewart has found his dharma and is fulfilling it.

      Blessings!

    • Marie Flint profile image
      Author

      Marie Flint 2 years ago from Jacksonville, Florida USA

      Thanks to Pharme274 for the comment "Very nice site [hub]!"

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