Victor Frankl was an Austrian neurologist, psychiatrist, and Holocaust survivor. He was a courageous man who knew a lot about resiliency.
In his timeless book, A Man's Search For Meaning, he explains, “Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”
Choosing one's attitude in any set of circumstances can feel extremely difficult, especially when it comes to a traumatizing event. Finding the inner strength to overcome the emotional, physical, mental, spiritual, religious, and sexual abuse one has endured can seem unbearable and insurmountable at times. Many find ways to escape in unhealthy ways (sex, food, spending, video games, dysfunctional relationships).
In my workbook, Mastering the Trauma Wound: A Mindful Approach to Healing Trauma and Creating Healthier Relationships(©2016) I discuss The Trauma Formula™ which entails:
A Traumatic Event = Shame + Core Beliefs = Storylines = Replication of Trauma.
Oftentimes, when we experience and survive a traumatic event we feel a sense of shame. Shame evolves into a set of core beliefs that impact how we see the world and our relationships. For instance, we might tell ourselves, "I am bad, I am dirty, I am unworthy of love." These core beliefs turn into storylines that include something like, "Because I am bad (unworthy, unloveable, etc) no one will ever love me. Therefore I am destined to be alone."
Based on these faulty beliefs and storylines we often replicate our past trauma by non-consciously seeking out people and relationships that mirror how we feel about ourselves and our world. We may even become addicted to the intensity of dysfunctional relationships, thus trauma bonding to people who are dangerous, unstable, and untrustworthy all the while feeling a sense of loyalty and commitment to them. We may feel like the cycle of abuse is never-ending.
However, this destructive cycle does not have to continue. Although we may not be able to change our past, we can always change ourselves, how we view our world, and our choices. As Victor Frankl states, “When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves.” When we change ourselves, everything around us changes even if that means who we allow into our lives.
This is where resiliency enters the picture. Individuals who live their trauma on their sleeve may feel like there is no end in sight. However, there is; there always is. As I explain in my workbook, The light at the end of the tunnel is not the illusion, the tunnel is. We always have a light within us. Sometimes we just need some help re-connecting to our light; connecting to our courage.
The Resiliency Formula™ is a key component to bring hope to those who feel hopeless, courage to those who feel frozen, and movement to those who feel stuck and stale.
The Resiliency Formula™ entails:
Awareness + Truth + Forgiveness = Resiliency
Awareness begins by taking a moment to acknowledge what is bothering you related to a core belief and storyline. Next, noticing what emotional and physical sensations you feel and writing them down. After all, getting your feelings and thoughts down on paper can be incredibly freeing. It is important during this step to use mindfulness based tools for getting grounded in the moment., especially since intense emotions can cause one to dissociate from their body. I offer several Support Tools in my workbook that include pausing, breathing, a safety affirmation, and meditation, to name a few. Reminding yourself that the feelings you are experiencing are just sensations from the past and that they too shall pass is also key.
Truth involves looking at the reality of your current situation. You have the power to change your Core Beliefs. Since your illusive story-lines came out of your Core Beliefs, you can change those too. You can create a new beginning right here and now!
In the Truth part of The Resiliency Formula™, you review what is bothering you as well as your core beliefs and storylines, then you ask yourself, "What is the truth of the situation?" You reassure yourself that no matter what you are experiencing you are and always will be ok. This can be a challenging step so I always encourage people to seek support through this process as it takes practice (sometimes a lot!).
The Forgiveness step gives us permission to free ourselves from our past. It is a courageous act of SELF LOVE, more specifically, self-compassion. By "letting go" we are reclaiming our lives.
As a trauma survivor, I believe that forgiveness is not about condoning anyone's behavior. My definition of forgiveness is "Letting Go with Compassion and Self Protection."
Oftentimes, part of the Forgiveness step involves giving ourselves permission to feel anger over a traumatic situation. After all, anger calls attention to harm that has been done. Therefore, I created a writing exercise that involves writing a therapeutic letter to express one's anger and resentment towards their abuser(s). This is not a letter that is not to be read to anyone but one's therapist, group facilitator, or a safe person. This exercise is meant to allow the individual the opportunity to free themselves of the weight they have been carrying all these years. For those who are not ready to forgive, the goal is to be able to say, "I am working on forgiveness; on letting go."
Having resiliency is one of the biggest gifts you can give yourself. Incorporating The Resiliency Formula™ into your daily life is a sure-fire way to help you attain a sense of lasting resiliency, recovery, and hope. We all deserve to be resilient human beings. Life is meant to be joyful with purpose, passion and love. Having resiliency helps us see life in this way.
In the Spirit of Aloha and with the bow of Namasté, I honor you.