No victim of mistreatment wants to hear that the terrible, unfair trauma they experienced can possibly be the best thing that could have happened to them. To suggest such a thing to a victim of child abuse or to a parent who lost a child is unthinkably cruel. Or is it?
While the wound from trauma is a bloody, gaping hole, it’s best to remain silent on the “silver lining” talk. After some time has passed, and the wound is no longer throbbing, the person who experienced their worst possible fears becoming reality realizes that they can’t go back and prevent what happened. While still sad, angry, and filled with other myriad (sometimes conflicting) emotions, they realize that they can’t change anything about the past, but that they do have control over their present and future.
It’s at this point when they may be ready to entertain the notion that they might smile again, that there might be something good again in their life. In fact, some people need to believe that there is life, hope, and even laughter after the traumatic event. At this stage, generic well wishes for hope feel empty. They need something solid to hold on to. It’s at this point that they might be willing to believe that it may be possible to mine something good out of their painful experience.
But what good could possibly come from irreparable tragedy? You can’t undo a violent crime or bring someone back from the dead.
[That's what I thought after emancipating from a childhood of abandonment by my parents and years of poverty, homelessness, and abuse by my maternal grandparents. When I was still one of the "walking wounded," I probably would have wanted to take a swing at anyone who suggested that any good could come from being beaten, burned, screamed at, and humiliated. But that's exactly what happened. Much good came as a result of me having an intimate understanding of abuse when you're too little and too vulnerable to prevent it or to fight back. All these years later, I can honestly say that I wouldn't change it even if I could.]
What I learned is that there is a process for discovering the character traits, learned abilities, and coping skills that are acquired in the painful events of our lives. This process is the foundation of the Your Real Success Program.
First, we have to be honest about what happened, without minimizing, sugar coating, or editorializing what happened. Then we have to ask ourselves, honestly, how the event(s) changed us. This is not an examination of how the trauma damaged us, but it is an honest assessment of how we are different after the trauma. We’re not overlooking that there was damage, but in addition to the character traits, learned abilities, and coping skills we develop to get through the pain, the distinction is found in what we learn about ourselves, the way we look at others, and our perspective about our lives.
This is the point at which many people get stuck in their brokenness. Some people see nothing but the emotional dark place they went to following the trauma. These are the people who feel too broken to be fixed. It’s at this point that some people may even consider ending their lives. They need someone to walk them through the process of finding happiness after the traumatic event. There is no one better suited to walk a survivor through this process than a successful survivor of trauma. The physical presence of a genuinely joyful survivor of trauma speaks volumes to someone who is still suffering. This is significant since so many victims feel that their circumstances were unique and that they are the only ones who have felt what they’re feeling.
With the right guidance, survivors of trauma discover their strength and resilience. They learn that while they cannot change the past, they will not give the pain one more moment of their lives. They realize that their best response is to find the good purpose for their lives, and to use the empathy, resilience, and survival skills they acquired as a result of the trauma to fulfill that purpose.
Each of us has a purpose which was there all along. It’s not until after we’ve experienced some pain that we find that our purpose nearly always involves helping others. Before the trauma, we didn’t have everything we needed to fully actualize. Our newfound strength, imbued with a tender vulnerability that wasn’t there before we experienced the painful events of our lives, combined with all the other things we learned throughout the journey, are precisely the advantages that position us to successfully accomplish what we were born to do.
Being fully equipped and positioned to find and fulfill the purpose for which we were born is the advantage of adversity.
If you’re interested in mining the lessons out of your painful events, or in helping guide someone else to do so, go to www.yourrealsuccess.com. You can learn privately, online, at your own pace, or in a group of like-minded people. Whatever you choose to do, don’t waste your pain. Use it to your advantage.