Star Trek Next Generation Patrick Stewart and Post-Traumatic Growth
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'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'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
- Job loss
- Death of a loved one
- Sudden health scares
- Natural disaster
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.