People can and do recover from childhood trauma. In fact it is possible for people who have experienced childhood trauma to live a full and constructive life. Many come to thrive and enjoy a feeling of wholeness, satisfaction in life and work, and genuine love and trust in relationships. Relationships are very important for recovery. Positive relational experiences greatly assist trauma recovery and also promote general well-being.
Understanding the connection between prior trauma and current behaviour is an important step towards healing. While trauma can have lots of impacts, people do develop the skills necessary to survive. At times people can feel as though they are barely surviving. That they’re barely functioning or not functioning at all. It is important to acknowledge that ‘good enough’ functioning is an achievement in itself. This is in the context of what was experienced by that child.
Different people are at different points in their journey. Some may find daily life a particular struggle. Others are connecting the dots between their abuse and trauma and their current life. Still others have found a way to live fully in the present.
Many survivors display a great deal of strength. They find ingenious ways to get their needs met. This can include developing creative ways to express themselves. Many decide to never hurt as they have been hurt.
Advances in neuroscience tell us about the plasticity of the brain i.e. the capacity of the brain to repair and heal. This can occur right through life and provides a scientific basis for hope and optimism around recovery.
Survivors often show a great deal of resilience on their recovery journey. Resilience means the capacity to sustain and respond to life stress, setback and difficulty. Many survivors process their trauma and come to terms with it. They ‘work through’ their traumatic experience so that it is no longer overwhelming. Research shows that it is possible for trauma to be resolved and for people to heal. This includes minimising its negative effects on the next generation (Siegel, 2010).
In fact it is possible to develop beyond recovery. Post traumatic growth is the positive change experienced as a result of a person’s journey through trauma. The capacity to survive and negotiate the challenges of significant adversity can promote inner strength and growth (Wilson, 2006). This process can transform a person’s reactions, world view and response to adversity. When a person experiences post-traumatic growth, they come to appreciate their life more fully, build on their inner strengths and acknowledge them, forge deeper relationships and plan more for a fulfilled future (Tedeschi & Calhoun, 2004).