FREED Life Counseling

Building An Identity: Part 3

Shaped By Suffering

Part of identity is based on circumstances and behaviors that develop in response to adverse circumstances that cause suffering. Negative effects of trauma on the mind and body are almost always discussed, but it’s important to know that trauma can actually lead to some positive changes in personality. Trauma can lead to developing new belief systems about yourself, the world, relationships and faith that you learned because of your suffering, not inspite of. This is termed post traumatic growth (PTG). PTG is defind as a positive change in psychological state after coping with adverse or traumatic circumstances. There is a shift in beliefs that leads to positive beliefs about life, relationships, opportunities, strength, and/ or spirituality.

Looking at life through a PTG lens does not mean pretending trauma didn’t happen, or that you enjoyed being traumatized. It does not mean that your pain, negative emotions or negative effects of trauma on your life are minimized. It is a way to be empowered, choose hope and choose to believe life can move forward in a happy, healthy way despite what you’ve been through or witnessed. It is a way to see yourself as a person with scars, not open wounds. It is a way to recognize positive attributes and changes in yourself that have occured as a result of your hurts, pain and suffering. You have your own unique identity shaped by your suffering. Some examples of personality traits that can develop as a result of trauma are being independent, resilient, sensitive to the needs of others, humble, generous, caretaking, and/or being grateful. People can become more spiritual and reflective, and take advantage of opportunities they may not have before. Many display strength, by setting boundaries, holding people accountable, enduring, and/ or becoming an inspiration to others through their trials.

I tend to focus on PTG in myself and with clients I have treated. There is so much value in the healing process and the transformation of thoughts from negative to positive; from defeated to hopeful. Everyone has a capacity to heal and choose life and hope, no matter how much pain was experienced. It is an amazing process. I don’t know your pain or your struggles or your fears or your shame, but I can tell you that I have experienced my own pain, fear, shame and struggles and I can see some positive effects in myself. What positive traits have you noticed in yourself and who you are?

I’ve tried to think of how my life would be different if I did not experience the various trauma I experienced, and I realized that my suffering and the impact of addiction and trauma on my life is exactly what led me to Jesus and having a relationship with Jesus. I could not imagine my life without Jesus, so I am grateful that my life got to a point that I needed a Savior. There is a Bible scripture that states “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” As a Christian this means to live according to God’s will and truth daily and let the truth of God and God’s ways replace your own thoughts and ways. I have always tried to do this and it is a daily need. Part of my healing is to focus my thoughts on God and to be more loving, kind, forgiving, peaceful, hopeful and view myself the way God sees me. This has been part of my PTG process ( along with a lot of prayer) as I have come to view people, the world and situations with a focus on hope, life and the belief that God is always at work, even in our suffering. There are many Christians who have suffered and grew closer to Christ because of their suffering. I have learned to embrace this idea rather than run from it, and look at suffering as an opportunity for growth and growing closer to Jesus.

PTG is a way to view your trials with hope and embrace life, not fear, shame, or pain. It is a way to empower yourself and others, and focus on the positive in yourself, others and the world. I’d love to hear from you on this topic, and what areas you’ve had growth in as a result of trauma. To contact me email me at

#PTSD #trauma #secondarytrauma #panic #relivingmypast #letgoofmypast #emotionalhealing

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