What comes to mind when you hear the word trauma? Chances are things that are associated with pain, suffering, fear, and a whole host of other negative effects pop into your head. But what if I told you that trauma can actually have a positive impact – a sort of silver lining?
Today we’re going to get into exactly what trauma is, how it can impact every aspect of your well-being, and explore the hidden benefits that can be found beneath the pain of trauma. Let’s dive in.
Trauma Defined: What Is Trauma?
Trauma is an experience that leaves a deep impact on our lives, often associated with pain, suffering, and emotional wounds. While we tend to associate the word trauma with deeply scarring and disturbing events (like abuse or catastrophic disasters), these big life-changing events aren’t the only ways that trauma can show up in our lives. Sometimes trauma can be more subtle and even cumulative – with things like your parents arguing regularly when you were a kid or flunking that class in college sometimes causing emotional trauma.1,2
You see, there’s no one-size-fits-all when it comes to trauma and there’s no type of trauma that’s “worse” or “better” than other types of trauma. Trauma is all relative – if something hurts you and causes you emotional distress, your response is real and valid. And this experience of trauma can have some direct and damaging effects on your life.
The Effects of Trauma: How Trauma Impacts Your Mental, Emotional, and Physical Health
The effects of trauma can permeate every aspect of your life. Just some of the ways that trauma can negatively impact your well-being include:3,4,5
Rewiring Your Brain:
Trauma can quite literally rewire your brain and alter the way it communicates and functions. You see, trauma makes you feel unsafe – so your brain can get stuck in a loop of negativity and fear. This can lead to persistent, intrusive thoughts or flashbacks and a sense of hypervigilance – meaning you’re constantly on the lookout for danger and what might go wrong.
Damaging Your Self-Esteem and Rocking Your Confidence:
Trauma can change how you view yourself and damage your self-esteem. It can also rock your confidence and ability to navigate day-to-day life if you find yourself avoiding triggers that remind you of your trauma – sometimes making it difficult to encounter certain people, places, or activities without feeling overwhelmed.
Increased Risk of Health Conditions:
Trauma can essentially cause your body to get stuck in fight-or-flight mode – meaning your body continues to be flooded with hormones and neurotransmitters that signal an immediate threat. The long-term activation of the fight-or-flight response can dysregulate your entire body, leading to things like:
- Decreased immunity
- Impaired gut health and digestion
- Sleep problems
- Chronic pain
- Increased inflammation
- Greater risk of developing long-term health conditions
Trauma can also sometimes lead to not-so-healthy coping mechanisms in an attempt to alleviate stress, pain, and anxiety. These coping mechanisms can include things like:
- Substance abuse and addiction
- Over or undereating
- Engaging in risky behaviors
- Unhealthy relationships
The effects of trauma can have deeply damaging effects on your well-being. But it doesn’t have to be that way. What if you could find a way to harness the transformative power of trauma and use it to your advantage?
The Benefits of Trauma
While the idea of benefitting from trauma might sound far-fetched at first, painful and traumatic experiences can actually spur immensely positive changes in a phenomenon known as posttraumatic growth. By reframing how you view your trauma, you can actually unlock some remarkable benefits. Let’s take a look at some of the most powerful benefits we can glean from our traumatic experiences.
Trauma Can Help You Create More Resilience:
Trauma forces us to confront our vulnerabilities and face situations that push us to our limits. Through this process, we develop resilience – an inner strength that allows us to bounce back from adversity. As we navigate the challenges of trauma, we learn to adapt, persevere, and build emotional armor that shields us in times of difficulty.
This resilience not only helps us overcome future hardships but also equips us with the confidence to tackle new obstacles head-on.
Trauma Can Teach You Humor and Help You Take Life Less Seriously:
While it may seem counterintuitive, trauma can also teach us to find humor in the face of adversity. Trauma often pushes us to find ways to cope and find moments of joy – helping us to find humor to lighten the burden even in the darkest of times. It grants us a fresh perspective, reminding us that life is a mix of light and shadow.
Through humor, we can cultivate more resilience and an ability to navigate life with a lighter, happier heart.
Trauma Can Encourage Empathy:
Having experienced our own pain and struggles, trauma opens our hearts to the suffering of others – allowing us to become more attuned to the struggles and hardships that those around us face. This heightened empathy allows us to connect with others on a deeper level, offering support, understanding, and compassion. It enables us to provide a safe space for those who are hurting and to make a meaningful difference in their lives.
Trauma can actually help inspire a deep sense of purpose within us if we channel our experiences and hard-earned knowledge into avenues that allow us to help others who may face similar challenges.
Trauma Can Increase Your Wisdom and Understanding:
Trauma can be a catalyst for personal growth and deep introspection. It forces us to confront life’s most profound questions and seek understanding. As we grapple with our own pain, we gain wisdom, insight, and a greater appreciation for the complexities of the human experience. This expanded understanding allows us to approach life with a more compassionate and nuanced perspective – thus enriching our relationships and interactions with others.
Trauma Can Improve Your Problem-Solving Skills and Heighten Your Creativity:
When faced with trauma, we are often pushed to find innovative solutions to cope and heal. The challenges we encounter require us to tap into our problem-solving skills and unleash our creative potential. As we navigate through difficult circumstances, we develop resourcefulness, adaptability, and an ability to think outside the box. These skills extend beyond trauma, benefiting various aspects of our lives ranging from work to personal relationships and from our health to our hobbies.
Trauma Can Inspire Deep Introspection and Growth:
Trauma provides a profound invitation for introspection. It urges us to confront our vulnerabilities, unravel our pain, and seek healing. By embracing the discomfort and engaging in healing practices, we can embark on a transformative journey towards self-empowerment, healing, a renewed sense of purpose, and wholeness. Trauma becomes a catalyst for personal evolution, leading us to a more authentic and fulfilling life.
But how exactly can we take something so painful and turn it into something positive?
How to Transform Your Trauma
The truth is, there’s no one-size-fits-all when it comes to transforming trauma and using it as a spark to ignite a happier, healthier, more resilient you. Your trauma, your experiences, and your growth are all entirely unique to you. And your journey to transformation will be just as unique.
But there are some things you can incorporate to help make the process a little easier and to slowly open your mind up to the possibility that your trauma can, in fact, change you for the better. Some strategies that might help include:
- Neurofeedback: A therapy that can help rewire and retrain your brain to heal from trauma
- Meditation: Meditating can help quiet your mind and teach your body and mind to enter a state of relaxation
- Tapping into unconditional love: Cultivating unconditional love and acceptance for yourself rather than putting on your armor and going to battle against your own body and mind can be transformative in and of itself
- Connecting with others: Whether that’s through therapy or simply sharing with a trusted friend or loved one
- Focusing on your physical health: Your mind influences your body and vice versa – so optimizing your physical health can make it easier to transition out of fight-or-flight mode
- Sharing your story and finding a sense of purpose: Finding a way to channel your trauma in a way that can positively impact others and help them on their healing journey may be one of the most powerful ways to transform your trauma
Again, your journey is entirely unique to you. And your path to healing and transformation will look different than anyone else’s. But if you’re willing to reframe your experiences and invest in yourself, trauma can be a powerful force that has the potential to shape you in profound ways.
Are You Ready to Transform Your Own Trauma?
All of us have experienced some form of trauma – it is an inevitable thread of life interwoven into our experience as human beings. But if you’re in the trenches battling the ghosts of a traumatic experience (or an accumulation of traumatic experiences), it can feel incredibly lonely, isolating, and downright defeating. But you, my friend, are not alone and there is an immense amount of hope.
While trauma is undoubtedly painful, it also holds the potential for transformation and growth. By reframing our perspective and embracing the benefits that can arise from trauma, we can cultivate immense positivity – giving us the opportunity to emerge as happier, healthier, and more resilient versions of ourselves. I know from personal experience (along with witnessing the transformation of thousands of patients) that it is through the crucible of trauma that we have the opportunity to create a life imbued with strength, compassion, and profound personal growth.
It’s because I’ve experienced the transformative power of trauma firsthand that I poured my heart and soul into my new book Unexpected: Finding Resilience Through Functional Medicine, Science, and Faith. In these pages, I dive into my own traumatic experiences – ranging from life-changing diagnoses to heartbreaking relationships and everything in between. I wrote this book with the hopes that my story and the tools I’ve found along the way can in some way help you on your journey to transforming your trauma into something bigger and more beautiful than you can imagine.
Because I know with every fiber of my being that if I was able to take my trauma and use it as a catalyst to create a life full of vibrant health, deep connection, and intense purpose, you are more than capable of doing the same. Click here to order your own copy of Unexpected: Finding Resilience Through Functional Medicine, Science, and Faith (and maybe grab another copy to send to someone in your life who could use a little nudge of inspiration too).
- Trauma (apa.org)
- What Is Trauma? | Cedars-Sinai
- Understanding How Trauma Affects Health and Health Care – CHCS Blog
- How Trauma Impacts Your Health (healthcentral.com)
- What Is Trauma? Effects, Causes, Types, and How to Heal (psychcentral.com)
* These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. The product mentioned in this article are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. The information in this article is not intended to replace any recommendations or relationship with your physician. Please review references sited at end of article for scientific support of any claims made.