No victim of mistreatment wants to hear that the terrible, unfair trauma they experienced can possibly be the best thing that could have happened to them. To suggest such a thing to a victim of child abuse is unthinkably cruel. Or is it?
As long as the wound from trauma is a bloody, gaping hole, it’s best to remain silent on the “silver lining” talk. After some time has passed, and the wound is no longer throbbing, the person who experienced their worst possible fears becoming reality realizes that they can’t go back and prevent what happened. While still sad, angry, and filled with many other (sometimes conflicting) emotions, they realize that they can’t change anything about the past, but that they do have control over their present and future.
It’s at this point when they may be ready to entertain the notion that they might smile again, that there might be something good again in their life. They may be willing to consider that there is life, hope, and even laughter in their future.
Generic well wishes feel empty. They need something solid to hold on to. There is no one better suited to walk a survivor through the process of turning adversity into advantage than a successful survivor of trauma. The physical presence of a genuinely joyful survivor of trauma speaks volumes to someone who is still suffering. This is significant since so many victims feel that their circumstances were unique and that they are alone in their feelings. Many of us had therapists or counselors who were well meaning and helpful, but with whom we simply couldn't connect because they've never been where we've been. They don't understand what we cannot unsee and unknow and unfeel.
In the presence of a successful survivor who has already walked the road to healing and happiness, the more recent survivor might be willing to believe that it may be possible to mine something good out of their painful experience. But their questions remain, "what good could possibly come from irreparable tragedy? You can’t undo a violent crime or bring someone back from the dead."
There is a process for discovering the character traits, learned abilities, and coping skills that are acquired in the painful events of our lives. It is called the Your Real Success Program, and it was created by a successful survivor of childhood trauma, Successful Survivor Foundation founder, Rhonda Sciortino.
The first step in the process is to take an honest look at what happened, without minimizing, sugar coating, or editorializing it. Then we have to ask ourselves, honestly, how the event(s) changed us. This is not an examination of how the trauma damaged us. That is what therapy is for. Although it can be therapeutic, Your Real Success isn't therapy. It's deeper than that. It's about finding and fulfilling our unique purpose, which cannot be done without an honest assessment of how we are different after the trauma.
We’re not overlooking that there was damage, but out of the broken pieces of our lives, we realize that we survived. We're still breathing. We're still in the game. We become aware of the truth that we're stronger than we thought we were. We're more resilient than we had ever considered. And our perspective is broader and deeper than ever before--so much so that people who have not experienced trauma can never fully understand.
This is the point at which many people get stuck in their brokenness. Some people see nothing but the emotional dark place they were left in following the trauma. These are the people who feel too broken to be fixed. It’s at this point that some people consider ending their lives. They need someone to walk them through the process of finding purpose, meaning, and happiness again (or for some, it's the first time).
With the right guidance, survivors of trauma discover their strength and resilience. They learn that while they cannot change the past, they must not give their abusers or the pain they caused one more moment of their lives. They realize that their best response to the crime that was perpetrated on them is to find the good purpose for their lives, and to use the character traits of successful survivors that they developed and the survival skills they acquired through their painful experiences to fulfill their purpose.
Each of us has a purpose which was there all along. For some of us, it's not until after we’ve experienced trauma that we find our purpose. Before the trauma, we weren't ready to fully actualize. We didn’t have everything we needed to do so. By taking our story out into the light of day and owning the truth that we have survived 100% of the painful events we've been through, we become imbued with a newfound strength. When we begin to feel that strength, we are able to allow a tender vulnerability that wasn’t there before we experienced the painful events of our lives. This vulnerability allows us to take strategic risks toward the fulfillment of our purpose.
All of this, combined with all the character traits, survival skills, and coping mechanisms that we acquired throughout our painful journey, are precisely the advantages that position us to overcome adversity and successfully accomplish all that we were meant to do.
Having survived trauma fully equips and positions us to find and fulfill the purpose for which we were born--THAT is the advantage of adversity.
If you’re interested in mining the lessons out of your painful events, or in helping guide someone else to do so, go to www.yourrealsuccess.com. You can learn privately, online, at your own pace, or in a group of like-minded people.
Whatever you do, don’t waste your pain. Use it to your advantage.
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Rhonda Sciortino overcame a childhood of abandonment, abuse, neglect, poverty, and homelessness to create a life of good relationships, love, peace, joy and affluence.
After selling her company, Child Welfare Insurance Services, through which she protected and defended the good people organizations that care for children who have been mistreated, Rhonda has turned her attention to helping other survivors create successful lives.