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Meaning-Making: A Trauma Informed Approach

Over the last few years the health and wellness world has been addressing the narrative of trauma and it's impacts. We have heard the phrase "trauma informed" repeatedly and yet many people, including practitioners tend to have different interpretations of practicing in this way. Although there are a range of moving pieces when being trauma informed, I have tended to find that when unpacking tragedy, loss and trauma a replacement of sorts needs to be created and fueled. This replacement is that of hope, purpose and meaning- we sit in an unsettled place replaying complicated and intense memories. The latter have in essence amounted to a persons identity of sorts being redefined. Sometimes when revisiting this dark and foreboding place a shattering of the persons belief system, world view and sense of self occurs. What are we replacing this with?

Humanistic psychology has addressed how meaning is created through suffering; or the positive psychology movement has led to seeing trauma paradoxically linked to psycho-social growth (Post Traumatic Growth). However how do we apply this so called growth through the trauma narrative?

A 25 year old client recently explained how she has spent a couple years repeating and replaying her numerous traumas in therapy settings, to no avail. I then inquired as to what in her actual lived experience gives her pleasure; or if she has any goals or dreams to work toward in her life. She seemed somewhat surprised by that question and was at a loss for words. After a minute she said, "I have not given any thought to that because I have believed that I needed to first deal with my trauma before I could do anything else". I answered "can we not perhaps do both things simultaneously, does one simply stop living". Trauma most definitely lends itself to a period of simply trying to almost catch ones breath, yet if therapy can work towards unpacking or adding new meanings to the ongoing suffering; hope and purpose can in turn re-frame or rewire ones experience of the trauma.

Being human means living with unfinished business; it means experiencing emotional dichotomies. There does not need to be a beginning and an ending, but rather we can allow ourselves a space to embrace the paradox of life's traumas and possibilities.

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