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  • Lisa Atkins, LCSW & Deborah Scarborough, LCMHCS

Thriving After Trauma: Navigating the Path to Post-Traumatic Growth

Hello there, amazing readers! Welcome back to our blog. If you've been seeking ways to cope with anxiety and depression, you're in the right place. Today, let's take a deep dive into a topic that often lingers in the shadows—trauma. Specifically, we're going to explore how you can move beyond trauma's grip and actually grow from the experience and overcome trauma by moving towards Post-Traumatic Growth. Let's embark on this empowering journey together.

Step 1: Acknowledge the Reality of Trauma

Trauma is real, and the pain it brings is undeniable. We can't control whether traumatic events happen to us, but we can control how we respond afterward. The first step is to acknowledge the reality of what you've been through and understand that your feelings are valid. We want to show you today how your brain processes anything, particularly while navigating trauma, and how you can shape the aftermath of your experience in such a way that you can avoid suffering.

Step 2: Grasp Your Brain's Inner Workings

Imagine your brain as having two distinct parts—the lower brain and the higher brain. The lower brain, situated at the base of your skull, is responsible for your survival instincts. It's like the ancient guardian that kept our ancestors safe from danger. This lower brain can sometimes overreact, leading to habits and thoughts that may not be healthy for us.

On the other hand, the higher brain, right behind your forehead, handles conscious thinking, planning, and decision-making. It's the evolved thinker in you. Understanding this dual nature of your brain is crucial to navigating the path to post-traumatic growth.

The brain as a whole also wants to keep things easy and light most of the time. In other words, it’s going to find the quickest way to feel good. Think of your brain’s optimal mode like you might order your Dunkin Donuts Coffee- Light n Sweet.

Step 3: Recognize Avoidance Behaviors

Your brain loves what's easy and pleasant—a sort of "Light-n-Sweet" mode. It's natural to develop avoidance behaviors that bring quick relief from discomfort, but they don't foster long-term growth. These behaviors are like Band-Aids—they cover up the wounds temporarily but don't heal them. Recognize when you're relying on avoidance behaviors and understand that they're a response to trauma, not a weakness.

Avoidance behaviors are like your brain’s safety blanket. These behaviors are normal reactions to trauma, like finding solace in comfort food or zoning out on social media.

Remember, your trauma wasn’t your fault, and neither are these avoidance behaviors. Your brain was just doing its best to survive the aftermath. But here’s the deal-lingering in avoidance keeps you from fully processing your experience. To thrive after trauma, it’s time to face those thoughts and emotions head-on.

Step 4: Embrace the Healing Power of Therapy for Trauma

As you navigate the path to Post-Traumatic growth, therapy is your lifeline on the road to recovery. It's a safe space to release the emotions and experiences that trauma has left behind. Whether you've never talked about your trauma, or it feels overwhelming, therapy provides the tools to process and heal and experience trauma recovery.

Step 5: Move from Avoidance to Confrontation

Avoidance may have served you during the trauma, but it can hinder your growth in the long run. Moving from avoidance to confrontation is a significant step in reclaiming your power. Facing the thoughts and emotions tied to your trauma is challenging but essential. Therapy provides the guidance you need to shift from avoidance to proactive healing as you move along the path to Post-Traumatic Growth.

Step 6: Reclaim Control and Redefine Yourself

As you work through your trauma, you might find yourself thinking, "I thought I was over it, but..." This phase often signifies progress, but lingering beliefs and avoidance behaviors can hold you back. It's now your turn to regain control and redefine yourself, and that is what the path to Post-Traumatic Growth is all about, reshaping your story. Instead of letting your trauma define you as a victim, shift your perspective to that of a survivor who's gaining strength and insight through the process.

Do you see yourself as a victim? Or do you see yourself as a survivor? Can you move things in your mind- your thoughts- to that of being defined by what you will create/contribute? Remember- you can control how you think about the trauma NOW and what you create from it- even though you could not then. The story you tell will be the story you live in the Life After your trauma. You can tell it, so you have your best interests and your growth at heart.

Step 7: Find Meaning and Growth

Life after trauma is about more than just surviving—it's about thriving. Seek out positivity, surround yourself with problem-solvers, and find meaning in your struggle. Your journey is like reassembling the pieces of a shattered vase into a stunning mosaic. Life After trauma can be like putting the pieces of a shattered vase or plate or cup back together into a beautiful mosaic. The Japanese have a beautiful tradition of using a gold-based polymer to glue broken vases and urns back together. In this way, the item is not the same, it is actually obviously broken- but it is more beautiful and enhanced in the way it is put back together- all the cracks shine with gold. Your Post-Traumatic growth can make you stronger and more beautiful than ever before.

Step 8: Rewrite Your Story with Post-Traumatic Growth

Your narrative matters. Whether you've endured abuse, tragedy, or hardship, you have the power to shape your story. Post-Traumatic Growth is about viewing your experiences as stepping stones to becoming a more compassionate, empathetic, and resilient individual. You can rewrite your story, focusing on how you've grown because of your experiences, not in spite of them.

Remember, the journey down the path from trauma to Post-Traumatic growth isn't linear or easy, but it's entirely possible. You're the captain of this ship, navigating through uncharted waters toward a brighter, stronger future. Your story can be one of triumph, just like the phoenix rising from the ashes.

Ready to Take the Next Step?

If you're intrigued by these insights into the inner workings of your mind and want personalized support on your journey, consider checking out A Helping Hand of Wilmington. Our therapists specialize in anxiety and depression, trauma, and substance use and are equipped with a deep understanding of the human psyche. If you're ready to reclaim control of your thoughts and emotions, head over to our website and schedule a session today. Let's start the transformation together!

Thank you for being a part of this journey, and don't forget to follow us on social media and share this blog if it resonates with you. Together, we can spread the message of growth and healing!

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