It is called trauma for a reason. It is shocking, full of pain, and often difficult to accept and move forward from. But, growth from trauma is possible.
There are two different philosophies on trauma. The western philosophy is that trauma is an enemy that should be challenged or confronted. The eastern philosophy is that trauma is a “companion,” not an enemy. Victims are encouraged to feel the pathos of nature, the pain. Rather than sticking closely to one philosophy or another, it is best to incorporate both into healing and growth.
Victim, Survivor, Thriver
Post-traumatic growth involves the passage of being the victim, then the survivor, and ultimately the thriver. Trauma is not fair and being the victim comes with a lot of pain and challenges. Being the victim is not something that needs to result in guilt or shame but rather it is something that happened. It is something that needs to be accepted and grown through — hence the “companion” not the enemy. When you accept that you were a victim, that trauma becomes part of you. You learn how to live with the fact that this happened to you and you learn how to thrive.
A person is still in the victim stage when they feel like they are still in the trauma event, no matter what or how long the actual traumatic event happened. The victim might feel overwhelmed, helpless, angry, etc. A victim moves to the survivor stage when they start to see the resources around to help them, the people in their life that care for them, the good things around them. A survivor is no longer completely encompassed by the traumatic event and is on the road to healing. They are beginning to feel strong and confident in themselves.
A person reaches the thriving stage when they have taken their healing to the point of feeling general satisfaction with their life. They have crystallized the survivor stage and are enjoying their life. In the thriver stage, a trauma victim sees long-term possibilities. They begin to focus on taking care of their health and loved ones. They also recognize and know how to cope with post-traumatic stress and any other issues that remain related to their trauma.
A licensed mental health professional has the tools to help trauma victims go from victims to thrivers. Those in the mental health profession know that just because you were a victim of trauma, it does not need to define you. You can grow, move forward, and ultimately thrive in your new reality.
I once met someone from a business meeting. We made an appointment to talk and then he asked me if I could remind him the day before the phone meeting, so he wouldn’t forget. The feminist part of me started fuming. He had just treated me like his secretary.
This is called emotional labor. He didn’t want to stress over remembering our meeting so he was asking me to. That’s not fair. That is implying that my time is less valuable than his. You have every right to feel offended when someone pushes their emotional labor onto you. He could easily have set a reminder in his phone, added it to his calendar. He didn’t need me to add another thing to my to-do list. What do you do when someone treats you this way?
What do you do?
Ignoring the request seems like the easiest way to take on this tough situation. You, obviously, want to keep a professional relationship but that doesn’t mean you have to take this shit. If they care enough they will make the meeting. If they don’t make it then its their fault, not yours. And, frankly at that point it is not worth your time. If they don’t have the capacity to remember the meeting on their own then it didn’t matter as much as it should have.
A nice response would be to say: “Funny, I was about to ask you the same. I suppose we will just have to remind ourselves then.” It is you standing up for yourself, setting boundaries, and showing this person that your time is just as valuable as theirs. You don’t have to be forced into taking on other peoples emotional labor just because you are afraid of offending. You have the right to take care of you.
Have you ever heard the phrase “shut up and show up?” There is a reason it exists and the underlying meaning can be a powerful reminder to all of us. It is saying stop all the talking, the broken promises, the excuses, the word vomit spewing from your mouth and instead show people you care through your actions.
Actions speak louder than words. You can tell someone you care but until you actually step up to the plate with a kind gesture, a caring action, your words mean nothing. By “showing up” you are telling this person that you are here for them and that they are worthy of your attention, your time.
Our time is a valuable commodity, especially these days. We are constantly flooded with media and overstimulated. Our attention and our minds are being pulled dozens of directions at one time. It is up to you to make the conscious choice, the conscious effort to put your actions where your mouth is. Show people what they mean to you by physically being there in some way or another. It doesn’t have to be anything drastic or over-the-top. Simple gestures like helping a friend who is hurting to run an errand, delivering meals to a sick family member, putting the phone down to watch your daughter’s dance recital, or getting up early to make your spouse breakfast—its these small gestures, these simple actions that show others you care.
So stop promising to do this or to do that. Stop telling your friends or family you care and then skipping out on them. Instead, show up. Be there. Show them they are worthy.
How do you show up for those you care for?
In life, there are things that excite us. They make us feel alive and joyful. Then there are the other things, the things that make us say “Ummm…” and don’t provide joy. They are the things we may feel obligated to do or the things we do just to give them a shot but they feel more like work than something we want to be focused on. These things can be time eaters, energy eaters and they leave us less time and energy to focus on the things that truly make us happy.
As my time gets filled up more and more these days, I have made a “hell yes” list and “hell no” list. Ten percent of my list are absolute “hell yes” items and another 10% are absolute “hell no” items. Those items are non-negotiable, meaning I will either be definitely doing them or definitely not. The other 80% of things are in-between. Of the in-between items, I try to say “yes” to 25% of the things and “no” to the other 75%. Why? Because that way all that energy I was focusing on things that did not bring me joy can be focused on the things that I want to be doing.
This is a great way for me, as life gets busier and more overwhelming, to keep things in perspective. I want to live a joyful, fulfilling life but in order to do that I need to focus the majority of my energy on the things that make me feel good to be alive. They are the things I look forward to waking up to. The things that make me feel good, and make me a better person. Of course, we have those things we have to do that we don’t really want to but by limiting how much of our time we spend on those things we have more time for the things we really love. Life is short, don’t waste your time on the stuff that doesn’t drive your soul.
What is on your “hell yes” list?