From Trauma to Opportunity

Can we rethink traumatic experiences as a beginning, not an end? Yes, says Najla al Tenaiji

My teacher used to say, ‘Make an attempt when you are unsure, but rethink when you are too sure.

Any trauma in our life takes much of our energy and time. It may happen only once, but it’s stored in our memory, amid multiple layers of emotions and feelings. And we may revisit it at different points in our lives, according to our moods and circumstances.

When the fog clears after a traumatic experience, we often feel that we have no idea who we are. This sounds scary, but let’s rethink what an opportunity it offers.

Start to become enquiring and curious about your values, ideals and purpose. Take time to pause and reflect deeply. This is a good step forward: it means you are no longer in survivor mode. Instead, you are healing. And in this rethinking phase, you will discover new things about yourself. That will restore and revitalize you.

This is a time to create a new you. It can be overwhelming but beautiful. Try new things. Open yourself to new experiences. Expand your horizons. Make new friends. Listen to them. Share your story without fear.
Start journaling and questioning yourself. Who were you before the trauma?

What were your interests, hobbies, values, strengths and weaknesses? What did the experience take from you? Do you feel free now?
If those painful questions make you sad, it’s okay. Being honest about what you’ve lost is an essential step in rethinking.

Self-reflection is essential for a contented and meaningful life. It’s how we identify areas for improvement and work on any emotional voids. It’s a key element of emotional intelligence. And it’s the gateway to understanding our true selves, dreams, emotions, interests, desires and flaws.

As writer Michelle Sandlin observes, ‘There is no greater journey than the one that you must take to discover all of the mysteries within you.’