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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

Heather shares about everyday lifestyle tips on Lifehack.

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Last Updated on September 11, 2020

Why a Life Without Pain Is the Guarantee to True Suffering

Why a Life Without Pain Is the Guarantee to True Suffering

No one wants to suffer. As a general rule, people like to avoid hurt and pain as much as possible. As a species, humans want a painless existence so much that scientists make a living trying to create it.

People can now choose “pain-free” labor for babies, and remedies to cure back pain, headaches, body-pains and even mental pains are a dime a dozen. Beyond medicine, we also work hard to experience little pain even when it comes to loss; often times we believe a breakup won’t hurt as much if we are the ones to call it off.

But would a world without pain truly be painless? It’s unlikely. In fact, it would probably be painful exactly for that reason.

If people never experienced hurt, they wouldn’t know what it was. On the surface level, that seems like a blessing, but think for a moment: if we didn’t know pain, how would we know peace? If you don’t know you’ve hurt or been hurt, how would you know that you need to heal? Imagine someone only knowing they have an incurable cancer at the final stage because no obvious symptoms have appeared at early stages.

Without the feeling of pain, people won’t be aware of dangerous situations—what should or shouldn’t do for survival.

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Pain Is Our Guardian

Pain serves to protect human beings from harmful actions. It’s the same reason parents teach babies that fire equals hot, and that hot equals hurt. Should the baby still place its hand in a fire or on a stove, the intense pain remains so memorable, that the child is certain never to repeat that action.

In the same way, pain within human bodies can serve as a warning that something is not right. Because you know what it is to feel “well,” you know what it is to feel poorly.[1]

Along with serving as a teacher of what not to do, pain also teaches you what you are made of in terms of what you can handle as an individual.

While the cliche, “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger” is a tired term, it’s used excessively for a reason: it’s true. Pain helps you learn to cope with life’s inevitable difficulties and sadnesses— to develop the grit it takes to push past hardships and carry on.

Whether it’s a shattering pain, like the loss of a loved one or a debilitating accident, pain affects everyone differently. But it still affects everyone. Take a breakup as an example, anyone who has experienced it knows it can hurt to the point of feeling physical. Especially the first breakup. At a young age, it feels like the loss of the only love you’ll ever know. As you grow and learn, you realize you’re more resilient with every ended relationship.

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No Pain, No Happiness

You only know happiness when you have known pain. While the idea of constant happiness sounds nice, there is little chance it would be. Without the comparison to happiness, there’s no reason to be grateful for it. That is to say, without ever knowing sadness or pain, you would have no reason to be grateful for happiness.

In reality, there is always something missing, or something unpleasant, but it is only through those realizations that you know to be grateful when you feel you have it all. Read more about why happiness and pain have to exist together: Chasing Happiness Won’t Make You Happy

In a somewhat counter-intuitive finding, researchers found one of the things that brings about the most happiness is challenge. When people are tested, they experience a greater sense of accomplishment and happiness when they are successful. It is largely for this reason that low-income individuals can often feel happier than those who have a sense of wealth.[2]

This is a great thing to remember the next time you feel you would be happier if you just had a little more cash.

Avoiding Pain Leads to More Suffering

Pain is inevitable, embrace it positively. Anyone who strives to have a painless life is striving for perfectionism; and perfectionism guarantees sadness because nothing will ever be perfect.

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This isn’t a bleak outlook, but rather a truthful one. The messy moments in life tend to create the best memories and gratitude. Pain often serves as a reminder of lessons learned, much like physical scars on the body.

Pain will always be painful, but it’s the hurt feelings that help wiser decisions be made.

Allow Room for the Inevitable

Learning how to tolerate pain, especially the emotional kind, is a valuable lesson.

Accepting and feeling pain makes you human. There is no weakness in that. Weakness only comes when you try to blame your own pain on someone else, expecting the blame to alleviate your hurting. There’s a saying,

“Holding on to anger is like drinking poison and expecting your enemy to die.”

Think back to the last time you were really angry with someone. Maybe you were hurt because you got laid off from a job. You felt angry and that anger caused so much pain that you could feel it in a physical way. Being angry and blaming your ex boss for that pain didn’t affect him or her in any way; you’re the only one who lost sleep over it.

The healthier thing to do in a situation like that is acknowledge your pain and the anger along with it. Accept it and explore it in an introspective way. How can you learn and grow? What is at the root of that pain? Are you truly hurting and angry about being laid off, or is the pain more a correlation to you feeling like you failed?

While uncomfortable, exploring your pain is a way to raise your self-awareness. By understanding more about yourself, you know how to deal with similar situations in the future. You can never expect to be numb to difficult situations, but you will learn to better prepare financially for the loss of a job and be grateful for an income since you now know nothing is promised (no matter how much you work or how deserving you may feel).

Pain Hurts, but Numbness Would Be Worse

Pain does not feel good, but the bad feeling of it will help you learn and grow. It makes the sweet moments in life even sweeter and the gratitude more sincere.

To have a happier and more successful life, you don’t learn from success or accomplishment, but through pain and failures. For it is in those moments that you learn how to do better in the future or at least cope a little more easily.

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You are the strong person you are today because of the hardships this life has presented to you. While you may have felt out of control when those hard times came, the one thing you will always have control over is how you choose to react to things. The next time you hurt or you’re angry or sad, acknowledge it and allow yourself to ruminate in it. Then take a deep breath and start learning from that pain. You’ve got this!

Featured photo credit: Stocksnap via stocksnap.io

Reference

[1] University of Calgary: Why is Pain Important?
[2] Greater Good Magazine: The Importance of Pain

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