Post traumatic growth and how to benefit from trauma
March 16, 2021
The Good that can come from trauma
Today, I’m talking about post-traumatic growth. Trauma doesn’t need to be a life sentence. There are benefits to trauma and all of us in this world. We will each experience an amount of trauma in our lifetime and each of us has our own experience and what that means to us. Trauma doesn’t need to destroy.
Peter Levine who’s a healing trauma specialist says that trauma doesn’t need to be destroyed or destroy someone’s life. It can be a place of transformation of resurrection and the places where trauma happens is a place where they compensate for the trauma in order to save themselves and create a place of safety.
In that compensation is the benefit of trauma. For example, if someone is traumatized severely because of abuse from their family, they create this place, a compensation of independence, where that independence creates a place of restoration and resilience.
Other places that people can see the compensation of trauma is in friendships, where people really need the help and support of others. It creates this compensation of connectedness and helpfulness in a place where someone may have an eating disorder from a trauma. The compensation then is to go into treatment and find the place where they are healing themselves and reconnecting with their wants and needs.
The trauma creates this place where resurrection and transformation can happen. Some people thank their eating disorders for creating a place where they came into treatment and gathered knowledge, connection, and skills that benefit them lifelong in and other areas.
What is trauma? It seems difficult to define
Yes, because the experience of trauma doesn’t really have verbiage. How I define trauma: the inability to stay present.
Trauma has a place that takes us back in time to an event, where the past becomes intrusively present. In that intrusive presence becomes a place where symptoms like anxiety, depression, self-harm, negative self-talk, and negative self-judgment all come flooding in.
There’s a disassociation or a disconnect with life around you and an inability to step forward or respond to life.
Everything becomes a reaction. That’s how I define trauma and it can come from natural traumas like earthquakes or tsunamis. Some people are in war zones where the trauma is in their environment. There is also trauma where there’s a breach of a human relationship.
Trauma can arise from major events, and also “small”
Trauma is the place where there is an inescapable attack where someone doesn’t get to complete their self-protective response.
So sometimes bullying is ignored as something that can be traumatic but it is traumatic to the person that’s feeling defenseless. That can be traumatic even though there wasn’t a specific event, but an elongation of pecking away at someone’s psyche.
How can someone learn to “compensate” from their trauma?
I think as therapists or trauma healers or even friends we can encourage learning by noticing where the person is doing well, where their successes are, or the things that they have used in compensation are enlightening to others.
They can use all the signals of trauma, whether it be disassociation or self-harm, and transfer that to self-care where they can then access the compensation of the trauma that is going to be beneficial and life free. This will help the feeling of imprisonment from the trauma that keeps re-traumatizing over and over again and restrict them from being able to move forward by reconnecting with themselves.
Self care is the place to access that compensation and develop more of it.
What about the idea that self care is indulgent or selfish?
I‘m encouraging people to be selfish. I’m encouraging people not to be self-centered but to be selfish in that they are a priority. Self-care isn’t getting a manicure per se but it can be noticed that your body is the one home that you have and how you take care of it.
Sometimes self-care is practicing non-judgmental talk to yourself or practicing self-talk in a positive way and having conversations with yourself that are positive. Self-care comes in a lot of different ways, self-care comes in taking care of your mental health, taking care of your physical health, taking care of the relationship with yourself, and taking care of healthy reciprocal relationships around you.
It does not mean co-dependence, attacking yourself, or negative self-talk. So that’s why I talk about self-care and if someone interprets self-care as selfish, then I’m saying, please be selfish.
Please be selfish in the way that just takes you to a place of resilience and restoration. A place where you can recognize that your trauma gave you an opportunity to transform, resurrect, and create meaning out of life.
I‘m encouraging people to be selfish. I’m encouraging people not to be self-centered but to be selfish in that they are a priority.