What Can Trauma Teach You?
I admit, it is kind of a strange question. How can a traumatic experience bring anything positive?
A trauma is traditionally viewed as eternally damaging and psychologically tragic. It goes against all instinct to think of a police officer surviving a shooting and benefiting from it in some way.
However, as the saying goes For every negative there is a positive. Or this great saying Always look on the bright side of life. There is something to be learned from every experience, no matter how terrible the experience was.
That is exactly what Associate Professor of Psychology Anthony Mancini and his colleagues wanted to find out.
They interviewed the survivors of the 2007 Virginia Tech shooting and found that 15% of the survivors reported a reduction in depressive and anxious symptoms. Professor Mancini and his team found that social connection and closeness to peers contributed a great deal to these reductions in symptoms.
Things a Trauma Can Teach You
So, I asked this exact question to the First Responder Support Group I facilitate as I was curious to the types of answers that would roll out from this question. Here is what was said.
Experiencing a traumatic situation will
- Force you to develop self-help tools and talk about emotions and inner feelings. It will give you an understanding of yourself and of those around you.
- Give you permission to choose your friends. You will get to know who your true friends are and who only calls themselves a friend but runs at the first cry for "help"
- Allow you to redefine personal boundaries. Were you a people-pleaser before the incident? Or maybe you have always been a helper. This is the time to stand up for your own values and principles, think about yourself first and allow everyone else to come second
- Allow you to regain control over yourself
- Change the way you see things, and appreciate the small things;
- Become more resilient and accept that things may change again.
What Has Your Trauma Taught You?
For some reason, when we are unhappy, our brain finds it easy to think of all the bad and negative experiences in our life. It becomes a vicious cycle, where you feel down because you cannot remember anything positive, and because of this you feel more down.
Acknowledging thoughts and feelings is an important part in the recovery and resilience of trauma.
Another important, if not crucial, part of this process is teaching your brain to (re)form connections to present positive experiences.
Think of at least 3 things that went really well today. And once you have done that, make a habit of this exercise, and you will find that it will become easier and easier to think of all the good in your life.