“Experience is not what happens to us, it’s what we do with what happens to us.”
One of my favorite questions I ask my clients is, “What is the most difficult time or change you’ve been through…aside from the current issue… and what positive thing came from it?
Everyone has some traumatic change or event they have experienced, but even more importantly, most can tell me something positive that came from that event.
Marie, healing from her husbands 6 year affair said recently, “I can’t believe I’m saying this, but we are better and more connected than we have ever been.” Is she advocating having an affair to improve your marriage…ABSOLUTELY NOT…it’s been a very long painful journey. But their hard work has paid off for both of them relationally, as well as their own individual growth. They allowed the affair to become the catalyst for positive change in many areas of their life.
Historically, the mental health field has focused on the ways in which traumatic events have caused emotional and psychological adverse consequences. Research has focused more toward the study of PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder). But a growing body of research is now looking at Post Traumatic Growth (PTG)…a positive change as a result of the struggle and the new opportunities that emerge from the struggle. We can actually grow from the trauma and become better, wiser, stronger, more accepting of life situations, more compassionate, more spiritual, and not sweat the small stuff.
The general understanding is that trauma and misfortune can potentially yield positive changes in self and life circumstances. A “meaning-making” process. You can never go back to exactly how things were before the trauma, but you can recover, grow and find new meaning.
“Persistence and resilience only come from having been given the chance
to work through difficult problems.” Gever Tuley
As a therapist, I have to give my clients traumatic event the time and energy required, but at the same time encourage and guide them in seeing new opportunities open to them. Focusing on strengths instead of weaknesses is imperative in helping people recover from a traumatic experience. Distress and growth can co-exist. Taken their broken pieces and create something new…reclaiming something that’s already there… and for most people, it’s the resiliency and inner strength they already possess.
Resiliency is an ability to recover from or adjust easily to adversity or change. This is seen on a global level in the wake of fires, floods, earthquakes, tornadoes, and other destructive forces. We have no power over Mother Nature, yet humans come together, individually and collectively to rebuild lives, homes, and communities. Not only the victims, but the first responders and volunteers. Where does that strength and courage come from?
Like in the Wizard of Oz, the Scarecrow wishes for a brain, the Tin Man wants a heart, and the Cowardly Lion wants nothing more than to be brave, but these characters already possessed these qualities. Dorothy already possessed the “ruby slippers” to get home. None of them needed the Wizard.
So I have to ask myself how I can help my clients recognize they hold the ruby slippers? That they are more than their trauma. Reclaiming something that’s already there and help them access their hidden strengths. Where does their power live? That power/resiliency we all have within us?
This powerful story exemplifies one man’s resiliency.
“Living Proof – Danny’s story