Out of all the experiences I have had in my 44+ years to date, “trauma” is not one of my favorites.
For example, I did not enjoy the two decades I spent trying to heal from an eating disorder.
I didn’t like my subsequent lengthy battle with anxiety and then depression.
I didn’t enjoy losing my friend David, both of my best friend’s parents, my first cockatiel, Jacob, and our family’s dachshund, JP Morgan.
I also didn’t enjoy my tumor removal surgery or my bout with mononucleosis in my 30’s.
But when I read in Time magazine that “trauma can change lives – for the better,” I didn’t disagree.
In fact, like it or hate it, my experiences with trauma have served me as a mentor of sorts, making me stronger, more confident, less anxious and depressed and more grateful for even the littlest blessings in life.
According to Time, psychologists call this phenomenon “post-traumatic growth.”
Also, research shows that upwards of 75 percent of all of us will have trauma at some point in our lives (which makes me really want to meet the other 25 percent!)
In the 1990’s, two psychologists surveyed 600+ trauma survivors to ask them if or how the trauma had affected them.
Here is how they said trauma helped them:
- Better relationships with friends and family.
- Became a catalyst for them to pursue their deepest goals.
- Made their lives better in other totally unexpected ways.
What I found most interesting about this research is that the benefits seem to largely start after the bulk of the healing work is finished.
So the process seems to be: experience trauma – heal from trauma – get benefits from trauma.
It makes sense, really, especially when I look at these three steps within the greater framework of the grief process (denial – anger – bargaining – sadness – acceptance).
Post-healing (or with the acceptance stage), new possibilities emerge…..and they are often quite beautiful and even just what we might have wanted for ourselves – trauma or no trauma!
Today’s Takeaway: Trauma is never a delightful, desirable experience when it is occurring (or at least it isn’t for me) but can you think of a past trauma that has brought subsequent blessings into your life? Are you in the midst of trauma now? If so, what growth and fulfillment can you hope or envision might come out of this period of suffering?
Woman with eating disorder photo available from Shutterstock