Over the years I have spent a lot of time reflecting on what I have learnt from the various adversities that I have gone through.
In fact, a podcast that I was recently interviewed on, described my life as being a little like a James Bond script. (I’m not sure about that but I wouldn’t mind some of the royalties if they decided to use my various life challenges in their movies!!) Do you think a paralysing illness, a gunpoint kidnapping, a life-threatening tsunami and being nearly burnt alive by petrol bombs would make for a good movie?
Recently, as I spent weeks on the couch with COVID, I thought about this topic a lot more because I was finally able to read and finish the book called, ‘What Happened to You’ by Dr. Bruce D. Perry and Oprah Winfrey. It is a brilliant book that I highly recommend for anyone who has been through a traumatic experience and/or knows someone who is recovering from one.
The premise of the book’s name is to stop saying, “what’s the matter with you?”, but instead to ask, “what’s happened to you?” when someone is behaving differently from what we expect from them. Often we have no idea what has gone on in someone’s life but we jump to the conclusion that there is something wrong with them. It’s horrible to be on the receiving end of this type of judgement.
When we make that subtle change in our question, it allows for curiosity and empathy. This shift in our approach helps gently support the person who is going through the trauma which paves a clearer path to their healing.
And it is in our healing that post-traumatic wisdom can occur.
In this book, Dr Perry says post-traumatic wisdom occurs when you can come to a point in your life where you can look back, reflect, learn and grow from the adversity that you have experienced.
In my keynote presentations, I often refer to this process as The Resilience RAP.
Dealing with challenges, grief, disappointment, loss, trauma and adversity takes a real toll on our physical, mental, financial, professional and social health.
It is hard work to get through tough times, but once we come out the other side of them, this is when we can gain real wisdom from our experiences. It is at this point that we can reflect on what we have learned and adapt these insights to our new circumstances. When we do this, it allows us to progress and move forward.
In fact, the wisdom we gain should be seen as a real gift. Of course, it does not feel like it when we are in the middle of those tough times, but it certainly feels great when we know we have learnt and grown and become more confident, better prepared and more able to cope with life’s curveballs.
Post-traumatic wisdom is something I know I have gained from my own adversities and this wisdom has made me a far better person than I was before.
Have you been able to turn your pain into power? Have you turned your hardships into healing? Have you been able to turn your problems into progress? If so, I’d love you to share this with me.