In my experience of working with hundreds of clients who have experienced traumatic life events, I have come to appreciate the complex and often creative strategies individuals use to cope during or after a traumatic event. Traumatic events that cause extreme emotions or fear of death/permanent injury affect each person in a different way. The thoughts or emotions are uniquely experienced based on a person’s life experiences, culture, prior traumas, coping skills, knowledge or resources. While nearly everyone will at some point experience a serious trauma, the majority will use their social supports and coping effectively and recover within weeks. Others will be plagued by nightmares, fear of reminders, experience severe anxiety and dysregulated emotions.
Each traumatic event can build resilience or vulnerability depending on the sequence of prior events. Trauma can be experienced from events such as assault, abuse in childhood, neglect, accidents, witnessing others being injured or dying, domestic violence, emotional violence, medical procedures and death of loved ones.
What is resilience?
Resilience builds from exposure to toxic events, and individuals uniquely will develop amazing ways to cope in situations that others thought it not possible. Resilience builds from learning what works and refining it in new situations that require the same skills. Many professionals work in areas where they are exposed to vicarious trauma, and in a similar way most professionals develop cognitive strategies, relaxation and supports around their work or traumatic events. Resilience can be:
- A way of thinking about the events,
- It can be a support system that buffers the emotional experience,
- A million little things that make recovery possible!
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