Surprising benefits of trauma: Blessings of going through hard times

Surprising benefits of trauma: Blessings of going through hard times



Benefits of trauma: Why bad things are not always bad and why change is a challenge to make things better!

‘Change has a considerable psychological impact on the human mind. To the fearful it is threatening because it means that things may get worse. To the hopeful it is encouraging because things may get better. To the confident it is inspiring because the challenge exists to make things better.’ King Whitney Jr.

The moment something happens in our lives that we think of as bad, we tend to look upwards and curse. Whether we have suffered financial loss, experienced a business or career disappointment, been involved in an accident or even diagnosed with a serious health problem, the common question is ‘Why me? What did I do to deserve this?’ However, what we don’t realize at the time, but often come appreciate much later, is that it is precisely those setbacks and challenges, or more accurately, our response to them sometimes determines our future happiness and success.

Recognizing what are good or bad events in our lives is not as easy as we might think. Many people believe that, at the extremes, it is clear cut. For some people, anything that causes pain is bad. Other people think of something as good if it propels us towards our hopes and desires, and conversely, they say that anything that moves us in the opposite direction, away from our hopes and dreams, is bad.

At some point in our lives most of us will go through certain situations that will cause traumatic experiences in our lives and usually it will come suddenly and with no warning. These experiences can literally smash our core beliefs about life and its meaning and drive us to the point of despair and desperation. It can destroy us spiritually and mentally as we struggle to come to terms with the loss and suffering that it often brings. However, trauma is not necessarily destructive. It has another side, a side that can change our lives profoundly and for the better.

There is much to support the belief that anything that does not kill us, makes us stronger. For example, when Kenyans experience terror attacks, as a country, we acquire a heightened sense of unity and patriotism. We stand together as a country to assist those affected and send a message to attackers that they will never divide Kenyans. Our security forces and the government are also able to see security gaps and plan better to deal with such occurrences. If responded to in the right way, psychological trauma often creates a stronger character and leads to what is referred as ‘personal growth’.

‘The positive psychology of growing through traumas is a much more fascinating topic for study because such knowledge can help increase individual resilience and reduce mental illness.’ Paul T.P Wong

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No one would suggest that trauma is good or necessary for us to achieve personal growth. Trauma by its very nature involves suffering, and in an ideal world we would all learn to grow within ourselves without having to suffer. But when it does happen, there is still hope for the future. Through research, doctors have discovered that people who go through major traumas, including life-threatening illness, severe accidents, criminal attacks and even natural disasters often experience one or more of five kinds of positive changes in their lives.

  • A feeling of personal strength.

Survivors of traumas often become more confident and self-reliant. The knowledge that they have survived the trauma gives people a feeling of optimism and a self confidence that they can beat anything that may be thrown at them in the future. It is evident that big traumas can completely alter our beliefs about ourselves and what we are capable of.

  • Benefits of trauma: Closer relationships

Traumas tend to bring survivors closer together with their families, friends and work colleagues. They realize the quality of life is more about the quantity of their relationships than anything else and they put greater effort and time into building and developing meaningful personal relationships.

  • Benefits of trauma:New opportunities and life paths

Even though traumas can shatter people’s lives completely, when they start putting the pieces back together, often they will discover new choices, opportunities and new dreams to pursue.

  • Benefits of Trauma: Greater appreciation of life

Too often, it is only when we lose something that we really understand its value, but when people go through traumas, any losses that they sustain can serve to make them appreciate those things that remain. There is often a sense of thankfulness for having survived, together with a deeper appreciation of life than they had ever felt before.

  • A new personal philosophy of life and stronger spiritual beliefs.

The spiritual growth that often results from a traumatic experience is vey commonly reported by people who survive traumas. Often, survivors have new and very different priorities in life. They begin to find some purpose or meaning to whatever suffering they have endured, and this in turn gives news meaning in their life. Consequently, they emerge with stronger spiritual or religious beliefs.

In conclusion life does change when bad things happen, but not necessarily for the worst, only as a challenge for a positive outlook towards a better future.

Raymond Mwangi – Communications and Media Professional-

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