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How to Overcome a Trauma and Be Even Stronger Than Before

How to Overcome a Trauma and Be Even Stronger Than Before

Trauma. For some, the word conjures up images of the emergency room and doctors. For others, they recall the time their parents first yelled at them. And for others, it was learning their spouse wanted a divorce. Trauma is experienced by everyone, in different ways. I once heard there is no measuring tool against which to compare trauma; it is not a contest and you cannot compare your hurt to someone else’s. That advice has always remained close to my heart because of its truth.

Trauma is a part of life. But so is recovery.

Trauma, as a general term, is difficult to grasp, and yet 70% of adults in the US have gone through some kind of trauma. Of those individuals, 20% developed post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) [1].

Despite its consistency in all of our lives, trauma is not the same for everyone. I recently changed jobs, and it was stressful and hard and incredibly scary. I had to make this change because my fiancé and I were moving to a different state. This meant we both had to make these career changes, yet I was the only one truly freaking out about it. Why? Because for me it was traumatic. For my fiancé, it was an adventure.

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Take for instance, divorce. I know plenty of people who married the person they were sure would be ‘the one,’ only to file for divorce shortly thereafter. For a handful of my friends, this was no big deal. I heard a lot of, “We just should have remained friends. But it’s all fine; there are no hard feelings.” This was a great outcome and of course an ideal one. But for my other friends, their divorce was life-altering. Life-shattering, even. For them, this meant a huge failure and it was joined by fear. Fear of dating again, fear of rejection and fear of trusting him/herself to choose the right partner next time.

The important thing to note is that the areas in which we are less resilient do not make us weak people. It makes us human. Maybe you turn into a baby when you have a cold, but when you broke your ankle, nothing could keep you down. This doesn’t mean breaking an ankle is no big deal, but rather that you are more resilient in the face of injury than sickness.

You don’t have to be strong because you have a cold but your aunt has a terminal illness

Regardless of what you find to be traumatic, it’s important to know yourself. Remember that it isn’t a competition; you don’t need to compare your broken ankle to your friend’s divorce. You don’t have to be strong because you have a cold but your aunt has a terminal illness. If it’s traumatic to you, it’s valid. Embrace that. Besides, if you know what you have a hard time coping with, it prepares you to face it early-on.

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If you treat everything that goes wrong in your life as a terrible, traumatic situation, this is going to be difficult for you. Remember that embracing and validating your feelings is not the same as over-dramatizing every event. Instead, find awareness and recognize that no matter what you’re going through and how terrible it may seem, eventually it will be a memory and you will be stronger for it.

How to cope with trauma and become stronger for facing it.

We’ve all heard the cliche, “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger,” but the cliche fails to mention how. Or even when. I don’t know about you, but the last thing on my mind when I go through something traumatic is how excited I am to be stronger when it’s over with.

So here’s a list of things to do to find more resilience within yourself and speed up the process of strengthening yourself!

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  • Be flexible. The sooner you realize life doesn’t always go as planned, the more resilient you will be. You don’t have to stop making plans and accept disappointment, but you should make it a point to be aware of the possibilities [2].
  • Stress less. Resilient people know how to cope with their emotions 24/7, not just when trauma occurs. Figure out what method works best for you (journaling, therapy, mediation) and practice it regularly. Knowing how to decompress will help you tackle trauma as if it were second-nature.
  • Don’t deny help. When things go wrong, there’s a good chance your phone will be blowing up with texts, calls and emails. Though it can feel overwhelming in the moment, the last thing you should do is ignore the support system you have. You don’t have to fake happiness for these people or even know what to say. Just remember they are there and they have your best interest at heart. Don’t push them away [3].
  • Practice acceptance. Denial never helped anyone, at least not in the long term. Though it can be tempting to pretend the trauma didn’t happen or that if you ignore it long enough it will go away, you are only hurting yourself with this practice. Accept the grief and allow yourself to heal [4].
  • Be grateful and meditate-ful. I know for some of you, this crunchy granola, meditation stuff sounds like a bunch of balogna, but don’t knock it until you try it. I have a bullet journal, and one page is titled “Practicing Gratitude.” I try to write down all the things I’m grateful for on any given day. It’s not always easy to come up with one, let alone a few, but I always feel more positive once I’ve done it. Meditation is also a great way to be more resilient. There are so many apps and Youtube videos out there that make it easier than ever to begin your practice. Studies have proven meditation helps us to stay present and strong when facing adversity. It’s a great way to get out the denial we have been seeking and help us face our fears and accept truth [5].

Remember: Hurt and pain is not a competition

If it’s traumatic to you, it’s traumatic. No one else has to validate that or tell you that you are, in fact, experiencing trauma. Hurt and pain is not a competition to have with the people in your life, so don’t seek out arguments based on this misunderstanding.

Don’t be offended if some people don’t understand your heartache. Everyone handles things differently, so the hurt you feel over a breakup may not be a big deal to your best friend. They are still your support system, so don’t worry about convincing him/her that you’re really hurting; they already know.

Be self-aware and know how you cope with trauma, as well as the things that prevent you from coping. You can only persevere once you’ve started practicing the things that help you to become stronger.

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And finally, remember that this will be a memory. You have to do some foot work in order for it to become one, but it really will pass. No matter how much you hurt right now, it will get better. And it turns out that cliche is right; what doesn’t kill you really will make you stronger.

Featured photo credit: Allef Vinicius via stocksnap.io

Reference

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Heather Poole

Technical writer

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Last Updated on May 7, 2019

How to Detect a Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing

How to Detect a Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing

Work in any competitive field long enough, and you’re bound to run into a wolf in sheep’s clothing. It’s a powerful image. A shepherd watches over his flock to protect them from harm. He’d chase away any predator that tried to make its way into the flock. A clever wolf wearing the skin of a sheep as a disguise can sneak by the vigilant shepherd and get into the herd undetected.

The story isn’t just a colorful description–it’s a warning to all of us to beware the wolf in sheep’s clothing. They may seem innocent, but they have ulterior motives. They’ll use different tactics to camouflage their intentions.

The person who is kind to you, but undercuts you when you aren’t around is a wolf in disguise. A wolf in sheep’s clothing might pick your brain for ideas and then pass them off as their own to get a promotion. They’re always looking out for themselves at the expense of everyone around them.

Wearing a Disguise Has Its Advantages

People don’t go out of their way to manipulate others unless they’re getting something out of it. Hiding their intentions gives wolves the chance to manipulate other people to advance their own agenda. They know that what they’re trying to do wouldn’t be popular, or it might cause struggle if they presented themselves honestly.

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    They’ll be able to do what they want with less interference if they put on an act. By the time people figure out their true motives, the wolf has what it wants.

    Signs That Someone Is a Wolf in Disguise

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        1. They live to take power instead of empowering others. A wolf uses people as stepping stones to get the things that they want. They don’t care what happens to anyone else.[1] A wolf at work might make you look bad during a presentation to make themselves look amazing in front of the boss.
        2. Wolves seem sweet on the outside, but they’ll show you their teeth. If wolves revealed their true identity, people wouldn’t associate with them. They develop a friendly or kind persona, but they can’t keep up the act 24/7. Eventually, they’ll reveal their aggressive tendencies. A wealthy person who likes to break the law may make sizable charitable donations to convince people that they are kind and thoughtful. These donations largely keep them out of trouble, but if someone calls them out, they destroy that person’s reputation to stifle the criticism.
        3. They manipulate through emotions to get what they want. Wolves know that they can get ahead by appealing to your emotions. They find out what you want and need, and they give you just enough to keep you quiet and compliant. Imagine that your boss is a wolf in sheep’s clothing, and you want to ask for a vacation. She might try to play on your guilt and feelings of insecurity to get you to skip vacation or take fewer days off.
        4. A wolf will charm you first. Wolves are experts at manipulating the people around them. They appear interested in whatever you’re doing, and you’ll get the impression that they care. After they get you where they want you, they do just enough to keep you on the hook. This is the coworker who may start out being your friend, but they end up dumping responsibility onto you. When they see that you are growing frustrated, they’ll surprise you with something to charm you some more. Then, they’ll continue to do whatever they want.
        5. Their stories are full of holes.  Calling a wolf out is the surest way to make them squirm. When this person tries to come up with a story, it won’t make much sense because they are improvising.[2] The classic example of this is the significant other that you suspect has cheated on you. When you ask them why they came home so late, they’ll either become upset with you, or they’ll make up a weak explanation.

        How to Spot a Wolf

          Know What’s Real So You Can Spot the Phony

          Do some homework so that you have as much of the story as possible before you work with them. Research how they respond in certain situations, or give them hypothetical problems to see how they respond.

          A job applicant might tell you that she’s always positive and thinks of herself as a team-player. That’s what every employer wants to hear. During the interview you ask applicants to work in groups to solve a problem to see how they handle the situation. The applicant “positive team-player” is bossy and negative. You’ve spotted the wolf.

          A wolf will tell you something that ultimately benefits them. Gather evidence that proves or disproves their position, and see what happens. Chances are, when you choose the side that supports their agenda, they’ll act like your best friend. If you disagree, they’ll become aggressive.

          Spotting a potential wolf–especially if you are one of the sheep–can present you with some challenges. If your gut tells you that a wolf is lurking among all the other sheep, pay attention, and make sure you take the next step.

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          Ask Questions, the More the Better

          There’s nothing wrong with asking questions to uncover the truth. The safety of everyone in your group is at risk. Since wolves often make up stories, you may be able to call them out when their tales lack details.

          When they state an opinion, ask “Why do you think that?” or “How do you know it’s like that?” They’ll have trouble coming up with enough information to pull off the lie.

          Since wolves are always pretending to be something they aren’t, they don’t usually have a clearly thought-out reason for what they say. In a debate, they won’t understand the root of an issue.

          They may also tell you what they think you want to hear, but when pressed for more information, they won’t have anything to add. Their knowledge is superficial. No matter how much you try to encourage discussion, they will not be able to carry on a conversation about the subject.

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          Wolves Are Everywhere

          As much as we want to believe that everyone has the best intentions, it isn’t always the case. Some people only do things to benefit themselves, and they don’t care who they hurt in the process.

          Wolves in sheep’s clothing can be found in almost every setting. You can’t get rid of them, but if you can spot them, you can avoid falling into their traps.

          Reference

          [1] Association of Biblical Counselors: Three Ways to Spot a Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing
          [2] Power of Positivity: Beware of a wolf in sheep’s clothing

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