The effects of trauma linger beyond the event itself. Long after you are actually under attack or in a place a danger, you may still feel fearful, helpless, or ashamed. You may have tried to tell yourself to “get over it,” but you still feel under threat, and victimized.
However, there are resources and people to support, help, and comfort you, allowing you to make it past the trauma still able to take control of your life. Making this realization helps you to move from the “victim” stage to the “survivor” stage. Difficult emotions, unpleasant memories, and discouraging thoughts may still come up, but you are learning ways to cope. The Survivor stage is the second part of a three-part movement that ends with “Thriver.”
In the thriving stage, you discover ways to make life enjoyable, and interesting, moving forward and caring for yourself holistically. The trauma is still a part of your story, but also something you have risen above, and come out capable of recognizing your value as a person. Being a full person means having a wide variety of emotions, and having the ability to express them in healthy ways. Although it may seem like a huge goal, there are steps you can take to advance your healing and be able to call yourself a thriver.
One of the most debilitating effects of trauma is the feeling your emotions are outside of your control. Flashbacks, memories, or even just unidentifiable feelings of dread, guilt, and fear may seem to crop up unexpectedly or after a small trigger. It may feel like your entire life is defined by the traumatic event that happened to you, but that is not the truth. There is so much more to you, but sometimes these other aspects of your self need an extra boost.
Deliberately choose to give attention to things you do well, or activities that can help you relax. Whether it’s having some beautiful moments in nature, going to a concert or movie, or connecting with a friend, make active plans to try to be happy. Artistic expressions, or athletic activities or other hobbies can also be a way to discover how your life can be richer than simply going through a hard past.
One particularly powerful practice can be to review your day, just before sleeping, thinking about some of the things you feel grateful for or that were uplifting. Over time, your “practicing” of focusing on positive experiences can help lead to a more balanced outlook on life.
Take care of yourself:
Situations of abuse, rape, neglect, or victimization can leave the sufferer feeling worthless. The bad things other people did to you get internalized, creating voices and labels of shame that can be hard to overcome. Any voice that makes you feel like your “deserved” your trauma is a wounding manipulative lie that must be silenced. One of the best ways to undo this, and recognize your value, is to actively take steps to treat yourself well. Sleeping regularly, resting when you get tired, eating food that both tastes good and contributes to your health, regular enjoyable exercise, and taking care of your hygiene needs are all ways to show you have value.
Connect with others:
Supportive friends can help you see things from a broader perspective. By walking with you in the process, and helping you see your value when you can’t see it yourself, a friend can be an invaluable help in processing your emotions and helping you recognize the truth.
You want friends who treat you with respect, and allow you to develop as an independent person. Sometimes it’s hard for people recovering from trauma to say “no” to things they don’t want, because they’ve set patterns of pleasing other people, subsuming their own voice and needs to what others want. A true friend will want you to be yourself, and communicate honestly about what you need or are comfortable with. A supportive friend provides a good way to slowly learn how to get your voice back.
This journey to Thriver is not a linear process. There will be days when your “victimhood” may feel stronger than others, and other days where you feel like a lot of progress was made. The key is to be gentle with yourself, and patient with the healing journey.