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The Upside of Trauma (Yes, It’s Possible)

The Upside of Trauma (Yes, It’s Possible)

According to Peter Levine, PhD and author of In an Unspoken Voice: How the Body Releases Trauma and Restores Goodness, “Trauma is a fact of life. It doesn’t have to be a life sentence.” At some point in our lives, we’re likely to experience a traumatic event. Whether that’s the death of a loved one, a divorce, disease, financial crisis, abuse or betrayal of some kind, these traumas can have a profound and lasting impact on us.

We often hear about the devastatingly negative impact of trauma in the form of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). With PTSD, we can experience either hyperarousal of the sympathetic nervous system which can lead to flashbacks and nightmares for example. We can also experience hypoarousal of the parasympathetic nervous system leading to withdrawal, isolation and depression. These feelings get lodged within our body and through the right combination of acceptance of the trauma, somatic/body based tools to unlock and release the trauma, and other intelligences that can create new behavioral patterns it is possible to heal.

[Related: Building Your Self-Esteem and Thriving Naturally]

Is it possible to not only change our relationship to the event, but to thrive because of it?

The good news is that what can be waiting for you on the other side of your trauma is a phenomenon called Post-traumatic Growth (PTG). With PTG you’re not only able to fully recover from your trauma, but you’re emerging with a renewed sense of meaning, purpose, fulfillment, contentment and worldview from what the trauma left in its wake.

What do I mean?

When what you’ve expected, known, counted on and trusted has been changed, destroyed and dismantled, as crazy as it sounds, you’re in a very unique position to see things… and create things from an entirely new space. That’s not to say you’ll forget your trauma, but that door closing has just revealed a door you never would have seen had that other door not close.

So how can you experience post-traumatic growth?

Lawrence Calhoun and Richard Tedeschi, the researchers who coined the term PTG have discovered that it occurs through these 5 steps:

Acceptance of the reality of the trauma

We can’t work through what we’re unwilling to accept. Yes it happened and it was probably awful. With the first step of acceptance, you’re willing to start the process of healing from it to create a new rock solid foundation.

Resourcing with people

Here’s where you’re finding support. Whether that means with the right coach, therapist, friend or support group of others who’ve experienced something similar, sharing your story with those who can offer healing words and support help you heal.

Recognizing the positive

While it may seem inconceivable to recognize any positives about your trauma, can you begin to find the joy in a sunrise, a baby’s smile, that bird’s nest outside your window? Recognizing even the smallest of joys helps heal your body, mind and soul.

[Related: Insights from Personal Struggle: Becoming a Stronger You]

Writing a coherent narrative 

Here’s where your trauma becomes part of your life story…not your life story. The role it played on putting you on a new path, what you’ve discovered in yourself (possibly a fierce strength, unrelenting grit, determination and will) all help put the trauma in perspective and helps you find and see the lessons in the learning.

Appreciating your new life because of the trauma

Now that you see there’s no more baseline, only the new baseline being created from your new starting point, what do you see? What have you learned, having gone through your experience? What insights has your trauma provided and who are you now because of it? I bet if you take a look, you’ll see that while your trauma rocked you to your core, you’re pretty fierce, unshakable and empowered. Of course the memories still hurt but you’re a new, higher and more evolved version of yourself having experienced and emerging from what you’ve been through.

Of course this is a process and there’s no race in how long it takes to heal. Finding the help you need and realizing there’s hope after heartache is a great first step. Just your willingness to read to the end of this post is proof that you’re willing to try :).

Have you experienced any positives because of your trauma? We’d love to know, comment and share!


Debi Silber MS, RD, WHC, FDN, Founder of, is a recognized health, weight loss, fitness, wellness, lifestyle and personal development expert, speaker and author who has led countless others to transform into their personal and professional best. Debi’s contributed to FOX, CBS, The Dr. Oz show, TEDx, The Huffington Post, Shape, Self, Health, Forbes, Psychology Today, WebMD, Yahoo Shine, Ladies Home Journal, MSN, Woman's World and Glamour to name a few.

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