Trauma and Resilience: Dealing with the Adversity of Trauma

Keywords: Trauma and Resilience.

It is unavoidable that we have a break down of resilience while going through trauma. These adjustments and coping strategies are our life-savers, but can also become our enemies. In emotional terms, when we are feeling overcome, there is always a core emotion related to a particular period or an overwhelming experience. Secondly, there is coping emotion that we feel more comfortable with and that we most often seem to act out.

Working through trauma, you can do a lot to become aware of your core emotion and coping emotion. Moreover, process the stress that underlies and fuels your emotions.

That said, a pattern that is put in place—that you have fallen back on over many years—won't just be discarded and doesn't have to be.

The Patterns of PTSD and Dealing with Trauma and Resilience

A core emotion and a coping emotion will, in time, become a character structure build on adversity. If you process the underlying emotional stress that has given rise to the character structure, this characteristic might still be there.  This in and of itself does not have to be a bad thing as long as you are aware of it when it is activated, and there is a sense of containment, adaptation, and boundaries. A default pattern is not necessarily a faulty pattern and this is good to know as a trauma "survivor."

Let’s look at some examples of core emotions, coping emotions, and the developing character, which usually sets in sometime during our childhood, and reinforces itself through later experiences in our lives.

A core emotion and a coping emotion will, in time, become a character structure build on adversity.

Example 1: Brenda loses her dad when she's ten years old. Her overwhelming core emotion is sadness, and her inability to deal with sadness creates a coping emotion which is anger.

At first Brenda arrives wanting to resolve her anger issues. In the course of our sessions, we see how her anger helps her cope with sadness. We eventually work through the sadness, giving it a sense of containment and processing it. When she gets stressed, however, she still tends to get a surge of anger that expresses itself to others as self-righteousness and feeling edgy. As she knows her tendency towards this pattern, she manages to maintain awareness of it rather than acting it out, thereby rapidly dissipating the anger-energy.

Depression, Trauma, and Resilience

Example 2: Peter grows up with a depressive father and a neglectful and angry mother. His core emotion, related to his inability to change his circumstances, is anger. Repressed anger almost always eats away one's sense of self-worth and gives rise to fear issues. His coping emotion is anxiety.

With Peter, as is very common with developmental issues, the need is to work on owning and giving healthy expression to his anger. Once he sees the connection between the anger and anxiety and is more comfortable with marking his boundaries, setting limits and saying no, his self-esteem rises, and his anxiety becomes significantly less. He still gets triggered from time to time into anxiety which makes him do a checkup with himself to find where he is not honoring himself enough in his relationships to self or others, and to work with that.

Changing Perspective of Dealing with PTSD

Patterns that have been there for thirty or forty years won't just go away. Some of these will never go away. This is a reality in dealing with trauma and rebuilding resilience. I am talking here about default patterns as described above. Emotional charge or residue that is part of Post-Traumatic Stress CAN be processed and is something that CAN be put in the past. It is important to recognize the difference here.

To work with patterns, tendencies, habits or even addiction, and they are somewhat related, is not to aim to resolve them but rather to change one's perception of them. When you are aware of them-- when they kick in and you recognize that they are a pattern from the past-- it helps to disidentify. This means that there is neither a sense of rejection nor acceptance towards them, but rather an objective observation of what's happening. This in itself stops the identification process and makes the energy available; this allows you to flow into awareness rather than act out a pattern with potentially negative consequences.

How is your resilience while dealing with the aftermath of your trauma? Leave your comment below.

  • Carla says:

    I have little resilience. I get angry, frustrated, scared, disassociate and drink lots of coffee.

  • Liz says:

    I am so less resilient now. The fear and panic I experience are palpable and overwhelming and more terrifying because previously I responded to perceived threat with certainty; now everything feels uncertain.

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