Life’s Traumas and the Power of Resilience


Surely you have heard that “Into every life a little rain must fall.” Well, for some of us these are not brief rain showers. They are more like hurricanes, and it seems just when you think things are calming, another one hits hard.

Resilience is about how you weather the storms and keep yourself prepared in case of another. Resilience is being proactive while being able to appreciate everything else about your life – that means enjoying even the cloudy days. How to do that? I believe its about your attitude and what you tell yourself.

Recently – actually since 2015 began – I was hit with one dramatic challenge after another, culminating in a heart attack, spraining my ankle so that I was rendered helpless in a wheel chair, delivering my mother’s eulogy from there, and then totaling the car I loved.

When I encountered the impact of smashing into another car, smoke pouring out of my hood, panic shooting through my body realizing what had just happened, I heard myself cry out loud “Lord, what is your message? What am I not getting?” I even went so far as to think perhaps this was karma for my being a bitch in a former lifetime. I know I am not one in this life.

I/we must be careful what we tell ourselves. There is a strong tendency to give meaning to things that happen and when we do that, we actually feel what that meaning evokes. First there is no logical sense to those conclusions and second, it doesn’t serve us in any way to believe that what happened was anything more than what it was.

Our thoughts can do us in and I was not going to let that happen to me. I know better.

While I loved my wonderful car, I now had the opportunity to purchase a new one – a safer one. So I set my sights on finding the one that was judged to be the best by those who test cars. I now have a shiny new one that drives like a dream. But, the driver is still nervous dealing with the accumulation of traumas, one after another.

So, having an appointment I didn’t want to cancel, I got into my car and began singing out loud, “Whenever I feel afraid, I hold my head erect and whistle a happy tune, so no one will suspect, I’m afraid.” It worked. I got where I needed to be.

As a therapist, I know that when people are predisposed to negative thinking, the quality of their lives and relationships are negatively impacted. A look on someone’s face can be interpreted to mean they don’t like you. Or an un-returned phone call can have meanings other than the person was not able to call at that particular time.

Asking myself what is God’s message is not the route to feeling okay when I am in the middle of upset over being in an accident. This is especially true for people who see their glass half full – the catastrophizers, the “poor me’s” of the world. Normally, that is not my style. I live pretty much in a state of perpetual gratitude. My glass is way more than half full.

In reality, there is no message to be revealed. I had an accident. Now what am I going to do about it? This is where I become proactive. Of course I took all the necessary legal steps and proceeded to find myself the best car to protect me for the future.

Then the question is what do I need to do for myself – the part of me that was emotionally impacted. Well, I made an appointment to have EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) on the residual physiological reactivity now stored in my body memory. My ride home after that session was remarkably more comfortable.

Everything is so much sweeter when I realize how lucky I am to still be here, to even have the opportunity to deal with the mess of the aftermath.

When I was young, I believed that the best way to approach life was to anticipate the worst. That way, you are prepared. Well, that translates into living a life of fear. Ain’t healthy by anyone’s standards and the truth is no matter how much you prepare, you are never fully prepared for what you will encounter.

Every experience can truly be an opportunity for personal growth. It also helps tremendously if you have cultivated trustworthy, compassionate friends who will remind you of who you are when you temporarily lose your footing.

A favorite saying that is displayed on my bookshelf is “A friend is one who hears the song in my heart and sings it to me when my memory fails.”

Points to think about when dealing with adversity:

. What you say to yourself matters.

. You’re thinking affects your physiological responses.

. Self-validating thoughts will pave the way to solutions.

. Negative self-criticism can lead to despair and immobilization or poor choices.

. Self-compassion and self-care are necessary components of healing adversity and in being capable of facing life’s challenges.

. Good friends who welcome supporting you through are gifts to our lives.

Resilience is cultivating an attitude that says “Yes, I can.”

Share this Story


About Paula Susan

Paula Susan, MSW, LCSW, Masters in Clinical Social Work & Psychology; specialist in Trauma and Relationships since 1982. In 1991, I integrated the powerfully transformative process of EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing). Research demonstrates that it facilitates life-altering changes more efficiently and effectively than talk therapy alone. I teach skills such as communication and anxiety relief to improve connection with others. Over the decades, I’ve come to respect how much damage even small traumatic experiences inflict on our core beliefs about ourselves and the world around us. I consider it a privilege to help my clients understand and change what has undermined their happiness and their relationships. I do it with warmth, integrity, humor, and profound respect for those who care about the quality of this small piece of time we have on

2 thoughts on “Life’s Traumas and the Power of Resilience

  1. Chris Masso

    Paula, so sorry to hear of the loss of your mother. loved reading this post.
    The car accident is unfortunate but maybe it was the way to get you in a new safer car.
    As I read your story it reminded me of my life hiccups and how I have a great support system of family and friends that continue to lift me up. Glad to hear you are dealing with all the speed bumps with courage and strength I am hear for you always, Lets catch up soon


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *